Metaphysical & Visionary

Another Space in Time

Another Space in Time
Murdered, Rodwell awakes to a second life on a parallel world. By the time he understands that this isn't home he is himself being pursued as a killer.   How could a story from a parallel world reach us from the body, from the stored cadaver of a dead man? That wouldn’t be possible, right? Well, anything is possible in fiction, and who knows? People don’t suddenly appear in our world, as either children or adults, arriving from another existence. Of course they don’t. There aren’t people, with no history, no family, no identity, totally alienated from society, being immediately pursued as terrorist killers, are there? That wouldn’t be credible would it? Especially if they had ‘arrived’ naked, bewildered, claiming to be looking for a home that doesn’t exist, and conversing in an unknown language about stuff that seems like pure fantasy? This wouldn’t happen, especially if they had never been seen, ever, by anyone, until just two days before. This book must be fiction, mustn’t it? But then again, there is an underlying logic. Perhaps there is even a ‘God-given’ reason. But there can’t be, can there?

Review by Tahlia Newland.

Another Space in Time is an interesting and somewhat surprising story that I really enjoyed. It begins at a slow pace, but after the attack on the Grange, I couldn’t put the book down.

A man called Rodwell wakes up in a parallel world after being assassinated on earth. While Rodwell slowly became accustomed to his new surroundings and indulged in long philosophical discussions, I wondered where the story was going. It seemed that he had arrived, not in heaven, but in a beautiful, sleepy place with none of the ills of our world. About one quarter of the way in, we realise how wrong fist impressions can be. A kidnap, a killing and a case of mistaken identity catapult Rodwell and the reader into a roller coaster of events that, since the police are pursing him as a murderer and terrorist, it seems unlikely he can escape alive. What eventuates is a fast paced, well written, highly unpredictable story in which Rodwell is forced to use all his resources in a bid to sort out the mess.

Rodwell is a likeable character and one who gained my respect early on as an astute thinker. He manages to escape various situations where I could see no possible hope for him. I congratulate the author on his skill in working out the intricacies of the plot. The secondary characters are also well-drawn and we get to know and care about them quickly. Lucy is a particularly endearing character, one we come to care about deeply, thus we feel deeply Rodwell’s pain at her disappearance and the trials she goes through.

Although science fiction in setting (it’s in another galaxy with a pulsar as a sun), it’s basically a crime mystery written from the point of view of the accused. What makes this story different from any others I’ve read in these genres is the philosophical speculation of the main character. The concept of those who meet an untimely death having another chance in a new world is an interesting one, and for our philosophically inclined hero, it—along with a rather limited understanding of evolutionary theory—convinces him of the existence of God. The seemingly irrefutable existence of life after death raises questions about the sanctity of life which come to our hero when events force him into a position where he may have to kill or be killed. He reflects on how religious fanatics could use such knowledge to justify killing those they don’t agree with, and concludes that this is why God makes this knowledge unavailable to us.

I found this a highly intelligent book that, along with giving the reader a jolly good tale, provides food for thought and contemplation. It gives insight into the challenges and prejudices faced by new arrivals in a culture, and, in my family, it stimulated a discussion on the details of evolutionary theory.

The writing is flawless, as is the world building—Bunning has worked out all the details of a planet in the asteroid belt of a pulsar star. The only problem with the book is that the beginning may just be a little too slow for some, however, its initial leisurely and amiable pace does give us time to get to know the main characters and makes the shock of reality crashing in that much more chilling.

I highly recommend it for anyone who likes conceptual, scientific and philosophical challenges, or simply fancies a crime mystery in a sci fi setting. I give it 5 stars and a place on the Awesome Indies listing.  I notice that there’s a second book out in the series, and I look forward to reading it.

The Commons: Book 1: The Journeyman:

The Commons: Book 1: The Journeyman
 “Paul Reid died in the snow at seventeen. The day of his death, he told a lie–and for the rest of his life, he wondered if that was what killed him.” And so begins the battle for the afterlife, known as The Commons. It’s been taken over by a corporate raider who uses the energy of its souls to maintain his brutal control. The result is an imaginary landscape of a broken America-stuck in time and overrun by the heroes, monsters, dreams, and nightmares of the imprisoned dead. Three people board a bus to nowhere: a New York street kid, an Iraq War veteran, and her five-year-old special-needs son. After a horrific accident, they are the last, best hope for The Commons to free itself. Along for the ride are a shotgun-toting goth girl, a six-foot-six mummy, a mute Shaolin monk with anger-management issues, and the only guide left to lead them. Three Journeys: separate but joined. One mission: to save forever. But first they have to save themselves.

Reviewed by Katt Pemble

4 Stars

I don’t really know what to say after finishing The Journeyman… my mind is still whirring around putting things together, rehashing scenes from the start that held hidden meanings that only revealed themselves after you’ve finished the book.

My first thought was around how instantly engaging and interesting the story was, even though it began as a slice-of-life type of story. The first few chapters welcomed the reader into Paul’s world, showed a young man who had struggled through life, had been beaten to the curb time and time again.

Annie and Zach also added to the delightfully well-constructed characters. I especially liked that they were both a bit different from the traditional characters. Zach appeared to be on the spectrum, while Annie is a strong minded, single mother, data analyst and injured war veteran.

Brilliantly different and yet, someone that just about anyone could relate to on some level.

The idea of a purgatory or interim afterlife has been done before, but not with this sort of fantastical element. When the book changes from slice-of-life to The Commons the whole world is turned on its head. This left me a little lost as to what was happening, and while a little disorienting, the fast pace meant you really couldn’t stay focused on that for too long.

This will either encourage the reader to just ‘go with it’ or potentially put them off completely (which is what I’ve seen in a couple of the other reviews). For me, the unanswered questions around what was happening and who all the new people were, was more intriguing than annoying. But I can completely understand how some people would get ‘over it’ quickly.

My biggest criticism, and probably the only one really, is to do with the pace of the book. The action starts at chapter 5, and it does not stop until you read the last line of the book. Now, at times, this works brilliantly. The epic battles and racing through dark tunnels was fantastic at a frantic pace, but normally as a reader you need some slower parts. Parts that allow you to digest what has happened and to form intricate and emotional bonds with the characters; It’s a part that was almost missed because of the frantic pace.

The emotional impact of one of the pivotal sad moments in the story was a mere molehill to me because of my lack of emotional attachment to the characters. The reaction that should have occurred was nowhere to be seen because my level of emotional commitment to the character was still in its infancy. Had there been a few softer, quieter moments with this character, ones to forge emotional bonds with, then I’d probably have been crying like a baby at that climatic scene. I wanted to, I really did.

Are you crying?

This isn’t to say that Michael can’t make the reader care about the characters, because he does. I really felt for little Zach and felt my heart lurch along with Annie’s as she worked her way through the puzzles along her journey, but these scenes were about characters that’d been with me the whole way through the book. I knew something of them, I wanted to read more about them and experience things with them.

When it comes to antagonists, Michael really shone. Mr Brill was insidious in his evilness and yet, still not out and out creepy. There was an intelligence about him and a polished exterior that was somewhat misleading. I also liked his little side-kick Gerald Truitt, he was an interesting character. I can see bigger things for him too.

All in all, this is a fantastic book. One that is well written, flawlessly edited and thoroughly engaging. If you want to try something that’ll get your imagination flowing, pick this book up today, you will not be disappointed.

**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review***

A Lifetime Last Night

A Lifetime Last Night
Every choice has a consequence, a notion Richard Dunham refuses to acknowledge even as his twenty-five-year marriage to college sweetheart Emily falls apart. Forced into a homeless shelter when Emily throws him out, Richard has an unexpected encounter with an eccentric old man who offers him a rare opportunity. A fatal accident leaves Richard between two worlds, but he refuses to leave this one before making things right with Emily. Left with only one option, he embarks on a mission to reclaim the heart of the only woman he’s ever loved, while trapped in the body of a man she’s never met – the man involved in her husband’s death. With time running out, Richard must navigate a minefield of obstacles that stand in the way of reclaiming everything he once held dear. A shocking discovery offers hope, but is it too late? Will Richard let his past determine his future, or will he discover that it is never too late to be what he might have been?

Worlds Within Worlds

Worlds Within Worlds
Imagine living in a multi-layered reality of separate but complimentary worlds—physical, mental, spiritual and technological—when a bully you thought safely tucked away in the cyberworld suddenly appears in your physical world looking suspiciously like your worst nightmare. Can you stuff him back into your computer? And if not, can the Magan Lord’s daughter from the fantasy book you’re editing, your dreams of a rabid beast, your visions of a Tibetan Yogi and your reawakened memories help you maintain your sanity and survive the darkest night of your life? Find out in the double award-winning metaphysical thriller Worlds Within Worlds when all this happens to author, editor and reviewer Prunella Smith. This inspirational, transrealist work—a mix of psychological thriller, fantasy and romance—has been awarded the Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence and a BRAG Medallion of Excellence in Independent Fiction. Worlds Within Worlds has a unique perspective on the nature of creativity. Its touch is light, its humour distinctive but it reaches deep into the nature of human experience.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

December 12, 2014

I received a free copy of Tahlia Newland’s Prunella Smith: Worlds within Worlds for review, and I have to say up front – this is a book that is long overdue. It addresses cyber bullying, especially as it pertains to writers and reviewers, but does so in a chilling way that will live you looking over your shoulder with every word you write.

Prunella Smith is a freelance editor and author who is up against a deadline on an editing job – a fantasy story about an adventurous woman, Kelee, who is having an affair with a young groomsman on her estate. Ella, as she is known, is also a book reviewer, and a recent review of a not-so-good novel has provoked the author, Dita, to begin a campaign of on-line stalking and bullying. Dita’s cyber bullying begins to take its toll, interfering with Ella’s ability to objectively edit Kelee’s story, and things only get worse when she discovers that she has a physical stalker as well.

Newland’s tale kept me interested from page one – and the little surprise she threw in near the end, well -2 I didn’t see that one coming. A thoroughly entertaining story. An easy five stars here.

Reviewed by Frank Kusy (aka Wussyboy)

This is a very topical book, a very well written one too. Thirty something Ella Smith lives in a remote log cabin in the Australian bush, cut off from most of humanity but connected through her mind and imagination (and her internet) to a multitude of worlds: at times she is a writer/editor in the real world, at others she is a wise old Yogi in the prelude to the 1959 Chinese invasion of Tibet, or Kelee, the fictional warrior princess with whom she comes to identify strongly through the book she is editing. Not to mention her alter ego as Electra, an ‘after dark’ dancer in a local strip joint. The topicality of the book comes when Ella responds to a request of an ‘honest’ review from an arrogant (and unbalanced) author on his new novel and gives him just that… a two-star review on a social media website (Amazon) which he deeply resents. At this point, we enter Stephen King territory – the demented author Dita shouting “Take it down!” much as the main protagonist of King’s ‘Thinner’ shouts ‘Take it off!’ to the gypsy who has laid a curse him. When she doesn’t, the author turns cyber troll and begins invading her virtual world with increasingly nasty abuse and threats, along with one-star reviewing her own recently published book. As the bullying author penetrates even her dream world (he’s a dark, human shaped blob in a hoodie!) her other identities as Kelee, Electra and the Yogi also run into crisis, and she struggles, through her Buddhist practice, to elevate her mind above the worldly concern of being unliked by 20 Facebook friends overnight. ‘Sometimes it’s hard being a Buddhist,’ she observes when not just one but two stalkers get on her case – the fight is on, in her own mind, to see all obstacles as opportunities, to see Dita, The Creep and even the evil Beak as fuel to fire her own journey to enlightenment. This is riveting stuff, part magical realism dreamscape, part taut psychological thriller, and I was literally on the edge of my seat when the final twist – and what a twist it is – came around. Phew, what a ride!
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an ‘honest’ review of my own. Well done, Ms Newland, I can honestly say this is the best book have read this year.

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Reviewed by Amy Spahn

Worlds Within Worlds tackles the problem of identity in the age of technological anonymity. Ella Smith is an independent author and editor whose online life crashes into reality with disturbing implications. The book questions how much of one’s true self can – and should – be broadcast to the world.

The story also delves into the nature of authorship when anyone with a computer can publish themselves instantly. What determines the value of a writer? Their career success? Their contributions to other authors, appreciated or not? What about when their readers disagree with their interpretations of their work? Who is the final authority when everyone has an opinion?

This book will make you think. Considering the deluge of new works streaming from authors these days, that may be the highest praise a novel can receive.

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Reviewed by Robyn Gregory

World Within Worlds was an interesting read. There was a mixture of Buddhism, magical realism and present-day problems of a 30-something writer/editor. She has chosen career over a family and children. She seems fairly content with the decision. During the time she is editing another author’s book she is bullied online by an author who she gave a bad review to. My only issue with it was that there were too many storylines running at the same time and I was having a little bit of trouble following along with them. I think it would have been better if they had her story alongside Kelee’s story (the one she was editing). But, otherwise, it was able to keep my interest. I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

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Reviewed by Justin Spahn

My wife recommended this book to me, and I absolutely loved it. I do not normally review, well, anything on Amazon, but I decided it was time to start, having read something which inspired me to respond. Its multiple layers were very compelling, and the author struck just the right balance of keeping the various strands and plot threads and titular worlds separated as well as intertwined.

I love how thoughtful this book was. It asked many questions about reality, imagination, and how perception and intent shape the world and vice versa. It gripped my attention and fascinated me, and I found that I couldn’t put it down. The main character is in her own world, experiencing the worlds of others through meditation, social media, dreams, and real-life clashes. In addition, the entire book is a world of its own within the author’s mind, and I myself, as the reader, am yet another world into which her worlds are introduced and experienced. Is the book I finished reading the same book that the author wrote? Did I perceive and experience it the way it was intended, or did I myself change the book simply by observing it, like a quantum physics experiment? Not since “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveler” by Italo Calvino have I felt so intellectually stimulated by a novel!

Finally, I find that I’ve bonded with the main character, which is quite a feat as I personally share virtually nothing in common with her, and yet I miss her terribly. I eagerly look forward to the release of the sequel!

A Matter of Perception

A Matter of Perception
Publisher:
Published: October 31, 2011
This collection of imaginative and entertaining stories about ghosts, sirens, light spectrum mages, realm-hopping gods, alien monsters and ordinary people will warm your heart and make you smile, shiver, and maybe even wonder about the nature of reality itself. The theme of individual perception as a result of our assumptions, beliefs and emotional experience bind these otherwise diverse stories into a unified whole.

Reviewed by Katt Pemble

4 Stars

Tahlia delivers another solid book, this time by way of a mix of short stories.

I loved the little intro, A drop from the well of creativity. I loved the way the stories where characterised like children, it made me smile, especially this line:

Inspiration falls like a drop of mercurial silver into the vast depths of my open mind. It hovers in space, then collects and merges with a gaggle of ideas and images until it hangs pregnant and heavy with a pressing need to deliver.

I just adore that imagery! What a welcome intro!

Now, the content… While some of the short stories weren’t really my favourite, I can’t fault Tahlia for producing a flawlessly written book, it was. The subject matter was uplifting and inspirational in each piece, dealing with self exploration of your mind and understanding perception, dealing with death and even the dangers of making assumptions.

By far, my favourite story was ‘The Drorgon Slayer’s Choice’ I felt the most connected with the characters, even though it was probably the most far-fetched in terms of plot.

In closing, if you are after a delightfully uplifting and exploratory adventure that is easy to read, well crafted and inspirational too, all while galloping through romance, YA, drama, science fiction and fantasy genres, pick this one up!!

A Hole in the Pavement

A Hole in the Pavement
Every morning, Norris watches his goddess walk to the bus stop in front of him, the gap between them far wider than the physical distance. This morning, she stumbles. He wants to run and help her, but finds himself stuck in a hole that appeared along with his self doubt. By the time he gets out, she’s long gone. He vows that if it happens again, he won’t hesitate, but when she falls the next day, he has more than his own hole to deal with. Can he find his heroic self before she walks away?

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

 

When you’re reading a sweet, tender story of romance, you don’t expect to be on pavements with holes in them, or at bus stops, or held in the routines of the morning’s commute, and you certainly don’t expect that setting to contribute to the story’s charm. That, however, is exactly what Tahlia Newland has achieved here. There are just two characters, each with a self-image that’s far from flattering. The girl thinks she has ‘thunder thighs’ and an expanding waistline and yet she ‘can’t give up eating ice cream’. The man sees her as a goddess and himself as an ordinary mortal. He suspects she finds his bow tie unfashionable but to her, it’s cute. And so the story develops in this world of ‘rusty fences, cracked paths, faded paintwork and builders’ rubble’.

But it’s also a world which has ‘the fragrance of Jasmine in the warm air’ and it’s this juxtaposition of mundane everyday elements and the dreams and fantasies which we all carry that leads the whole to a very satisfying conclusion. The strange holes which keep appearing are part of the crumbling everyday setting and yet, in the story, they have a generative, symbolic function. They’re an excellent metaphor, used with restraint and sensitivity. This is magical realism at a seemingly simple and yet powerful level. And it’s all in the characters and the use of language. Their feelings are ‘golden’, ‘brilliant’. Magnolia leaves carpet the ground, but the hole contains sticky-looking mud. The ‘thunder-thighed’ woman has eyes with ‘endless depths’, the shy, tongue-tied man becomes a rescuing knight. And it seems that the holes were never there at all.

 

Lost In Thought

Lost In Thought
A journey into the perils and pitfalls of the subconscious mind – to save a life, solve a crime and recover an algorithm that could change the world. A secret that could change the world is lost inside Richard Trescerrick’s comatose mind. The only hope is the Brainscape device, an experimental mind-link technology and doorway to the subconscious. To save his life and recover the formula, a team of police and doctors use the Brainscape to enter Richard’s unconscious mind. Along for the ride is estranged son Luke who must risk his life and sanity on a mission to wake his father, unmask a killer and expose a conspiracy that threatens the world. But when the Brainscape device is sabotaged the team is scattered and trapped in the subconscious unable to escape. If they die in here, they die for real and there are dangers everywhere – because in the labyrinth of the Brainscape, enemies lurk behind every memory. Secrets spawn riddles wrapped in metaphor. Stories come alive. And monsters are made flesh.

Reviewed by Tony McFadden,

4 Stars

“Lost in Thought” is a psychological thriller, the bastard child of Inception, The Cell, and a little bit of The Matrix.

Luke Trescerrick is in a bad place. His mother is dead, his father, Richard, is emotionally unreachable and his young son, Daniel, is possibly autistic and definitely in need of professional help. When it can’t possibly get worse, he’s evicted from his crappy little Cornish cottage by his father, who then is a victim of a home invasion, left in a coma.

It’s the coma that is the centrepiece of the novel. The coma, and Brainscape – a device invented by his father to enter the (sub)consciousness of others.

Richard kept a key part of the device secret. His business partner is keen to use Brainscape to go in and try and find the key. Medical professionals are interested in seeing if Brainscape can help lift Richard out of the coma and the police, specifically one eager, ambitious Detective Inspector Yvonne Warren, is very interested in the potential investigative powers of the tool.

They enter Richard’s subconscious and embark on a journey of ego, super-ego, id, metaphors and archetypes, all running around in the fantastic world of Richard’s imagination and memories.

After a bit of a slow start (not so slow that I was tempted to stop reading), the pace quickly picks up once the band of not so merry men and women start traversing the brain. Townley does a good job of creating the main characters – Luke, his father, Cate the psychologist and Dubois, the business partner, are real. The worlds are real. At least as real as imaginary worlds can be, and the premise of summoning metaphors and archetypes move around and solve problems while inside the subconscious is genius. And the ticket out, a brilliant idea.

Townley does a great job with this book. Structurally there is nothing wrong and Luke’s evolution is a very well-defined arc. A strong four stars. I’m looking forward to reading more of his work.

 

Hand of Chaos

Hand of Chaos
A necromancer is out for revenge, leaving a trail of bodies around DC. Can Anna and her dysfunctional team of occult-powered government agents stop him before it's too late? Exhausted, cynical, and confused, Anna is always there to report for duty. She’s part of a clandestine government team that defends the nation against supernatural terrorism — a job that understandably leaves her life in shambles and drives her to drink a little more than she should. Toss in a fear of intimacy with a desire to have friends and lovers like a normal person and, well, Anna is a troubled soul wrapped in a special agent with arcane, magical powers. Waking up hungover at five-thirty in the morning with a zombie-infested apartment building in the heart of DC to deal with, she knows she’s got the makings of the worst morning possible. Her team is its own challenge. A battle-scarred Nigerian shaman, a bookish shape-shifter, an inept summoner, and a brilliant but cantankerous wizard round it all out. Her partner, an immortal and cursed Paladin, is the only person she knows more jaded than herself. Their target, Ethan Morgan, is one pissed off necromancer. His brother was KIA by his own government, the victim of an experimental magical weapon they decided to test on the battlefield. Now bent on revenge and sponsored by one of hell’s most powerful demons, Ethan has a plan of his own to make us all pay.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

February 28, 2014

4 Stars

Yes.

This book is chock full of yes. The main character, Anna Wei, is a brilliant combination of punk, sorcerer, and exhausted bureaucrat trying to have a second life outside of her job, one that clashes completely with the secret government agency she works for. She is likable enough instantly to root for out of the gate, when her squad is commanded to mop up a zombie infestation in a DC apartment building.

The world in Hand of Chaos is richly textured, a layer of invisible magic and political intrigue interwoven with government organizations of the US. Though their aims are basically the protection of American citizens, the Greys of the NSA, the Churchies of the DoD and the Flamers of the CIA go about things in very different ways. Their departments are envisioned, full of bored cubicle-working summoners, strict and thorough requisitions secretaries, and even the security guard at the magical practice arena gets an interesting little mini-bio. All these serve to add more depth to the multilayered and many-faceted magical system the author has obviously taken some serious time to come up with. There are magical workshops. Awesome.

The plot is a double helix, in which Anna and squad desperately try to play catch up to bad boy Ethan, necromancer in service to some serious demonic entities. Not only does Ethan have powerful backup, but he is combining necromantic magic in ways the world has never seen. Anna’s people, by contrast, have budget and personnel crunches, paperwork and briefings, aforementioned workshops, and higher ups to please. Plus, as they’re reminded constantly, they have bureaucratic garbage and political rivals to deal with.

All these factors bring Hand of Chaos to life, like the book is a zombie reanimated through Death Magic and sent on a rampage to eventually transform into a revenant and tear the reader apart.

So why the four stars? Right…

There are three main problems with the book, and all are pretty miniscule. The first is that the world of Hand of Chaos is so thick with magic and organizations and faces and history that plenty of it is spent on exposition. Actually this isn’t really the problem, as the author handles most of it very well. What aren’t effective are the multi-paragraph blocks of expository dialogue by various characters. It feels as if the author pulled these chunks of text out of the narrative and slapped quotes on either side. The result feels wooden and out of character for Anna, Roy, and others.

Second, there are far more minor spelling, punctuation and grammar issues than there should be. They trip up an otherwise stellar read.

Third, plenty of fantasy and urban fantasy books work on a sort of ascending scale (especially series works) where the main character has to find reserves of power within him/herself in order to battle the super badguy. This ultimately leads to something like going Super Saiyan level two. In the following book, the author is then forced to make an even more powerful badguy, and then has no recourse but to make the main character suddenly (to keep up the thrill of the book) develop even MORE badass powers. It’s a hideous cycle that has utterly ruined series after series for me. While this book focuses on the many, varied intricacies and difficulties in learning different spheres of magic, and while Anna ultimately uses what’s in her cranium (yay for brainpower!), the finale of the Hand of Chaos left me feeling proud and frustrated at the same time. Since I’m almost certain this is an issue only I have, it’s a super tiny one.

Overall, this book is well worth the read, given my three tiny issues with it. Fans of Jim Butcher will love the supernatural romp up and down the Washington DC area. Maybe if we’re lucky, we can see more of Anna Wei in the future.

Vingede

Vingede
A possibly schizophrenic adolescent boy who speaks mysterious, rhyming riddles… a mute teen girl who can only communicate through art and has an odd collecting habit… Two young people held captive by unrelated mental illness or is there a sinister connection between the cases – a swan song cry no one has yet heard? When former novitiate turned PI, Tobias Berger, is hired by the foster father of a teen whom his unusual new client believes may have knowledge of an undiscovered crime, the private eye finds himself immersed in two cases stranger and darker than the one which introduced him to his current secretary, a young woman who’s much more to him than an employee. As the pieces in an eerie puzzle come together and the couple begins a relationship that Tobias has been hesitant to let take flight, the two discover that the supernatural is far from done with them and that the mystical may well be at work in more than one aspect of their lives. Another fairy tale mystery in which the paranormal proves itself business as usual.

Reviewed 

An Excellent and Eerie Mystery

The second of Krisi Keley’s Friar Tobias mysteries is even better than the first. Once again the author’s background in linguistics and theology provides the unique material for this superb supernatural mystery.

A man seeks Tobias’s help for his foster son. He thinks the child may have witnessed a crime, but the boy has a speech problem due to either autism or schizophrenia, so no one can understand him. Like Ms Keley, Tobias has a degree in linguistics which is why the man seeks him out. Paolo speaks in poetry and makes obscure references to what Tobias eventually figures out is an old fairy tale about a girl and her eleven brothers that are turned into swans by a wicked witch. He senses that someone is in trouble, but who?

Tobias’s friend, the psychiatrist priest, wants him to meet a mute and apparently traumatised girl who has turned up in a hospital and, in what appears to be sheer coincidence, her sketches indicate that she fills the role of the girl in the fairy tale. But where are her eleven brothers? And how does Paolo know all this? This description is a gross simplification of a story with many subtleties, but as with all good mysteries, our suspicions are aroused and the pieces come together at the end.

Ms Keley manages to imbue her mystery with more than just the supernatural. As with all her books, questions of spirituality are at the core of the story. Tobias is a staunch Catholic. He believes in leaving sex until marriage, so his girlfriend, Samantha, who he met in his last case, must wait with him, and this provides some interesting topics of conversation. The nature of the crime and how it reflects present day morals is also a matter of thought-provoking reflection on Tobias’s part, but both these issues sit quite naturally in the story simply because of who Tobias is.

Ms Keley is a master of the English language. Her prose flows beautifully (though I did find the first sentence rather a mouthful) and she expresses subtle ideas succinctly and elegantly. The characters are charming with a delightful intelligent banter between Tobias and Samantha. The plot is interesting, the pacing never languishes and the editing is sleek.

Overall the book is an excellent and eerie mystery about a sick crime that needs a little supernatural intervention to bring the perpetrator to justice. This is a wonderful example of the kind of gems you’ll only find in independent fiction. It’s an entertaining, skilfully executed mystery, but it’s also different, deep and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it for those who like private investigator stories with supernatural and metaphysical elements.