mystery

The Locksmith’s Secret

The Locksmith’s Secret
Published: April 8, 2016
Author's Twitter: @TahliaNewland
Ella’s boyfriend Jamie seems to be her perfect match until a death in the family calls him back to England and it becomes clear that he’s hiding something. Can their relationship survive the revelation of something so astounding that it completely changes Ella’s perception of him and his place in her world? While Jamie struggles with family responsibilities, Ella’s steampunk murder mystery develops a life of its own, raising disturbing memories of her time as a striptease artist and a past life as a sexually abused Italian nun. She also dreams of an ephemeral city, where she seeks to unravel the locksmith’s secret and find the key that opens a door to other realities. All these, together with a lost brother, a desperate mother, a demanding cat, and a struggle to live up to Buddhist ideals, weave together in a rich tapestry that creates an extraordinary work of genre-bending treansrealist fiction    

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

5 Stars

Worlds Within Worlds was one of the most unique novels I’ve ever read. The story of Prunella Smith continues in The Locksmith’s Secret, and while not as unique as the first book, this novel adds a new depth of Ella’s character while exploring themes of trauma, womanhood, and the need to confront evil.

While reading Worlds Within Worlds will help readers to understand this book (and I highly recommend it), The Locksmith’s Secret can be read on its own. You’ll still enjoy the rich tapestry of interconnecting narratives weaving together to form a multifaceted whole. This time the fantasy element comes in the form of a steampunk novel Ella is writing. We also explore her past as a stripper, her past lives, and the mysterious background of her boyfriend, Jamie, who might be too good to be true.

A solid follow-up to an exceptional novel.

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Reviewed by Charles Ray

5 Stars

Editor-Author Prunella Smith seems to be getting her life back together. She feels that things are going well with her boyfriend, Jamie, until the death of his older brother in England draws him back home and into the clutches of a demanding, manipulative mother. While coping with this unexpected separation, Prunella is drawn into writing a steampunk novel about Nell, an intrepid investigative reporter on the trail of a vicious killer who also happens to be an esteemed member of the upper class, and enmeshed in the ‘dream’ life of Daniela, a young woman about to become a nun, who is caught between trying to get away from her abusive past and the decidedly earthly feelings she has for the convent gardener. While all this is happening, Prunella is also experiencing waking dreams about a mysterious locksmith who seems to hold the key to everything she needs to understand to get her world back into balance.
The Locksmith’s Secret by Tahlia Newland is, to use a word coined by Prunella, a multi-genre story that combines all the best traits of sci-fi, thriller, steampunk, and a few other genres in a tale that grabs your imagination in a vice-like grip and refuses to let go until you breathlessly reach the last page. This is an exploration of the mind that takes up where the author’s World Within Worlds left off, but stands on its own as a story that will make you question everything you thought you knew about the universe. Most importantly, though, it will entertain you in the way that well-told stories are meant to entertain.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

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Reviewed by Mary Maddox

5 stars

A Rich Narrative Tapestry
By Dream Beast VINE VOICE on April 8, 2016
In The Locksmith’s Secret, Tahlia Newland has woven several narratives into a complex story about the joys and pitfalls of love and the enduring power of the imagination.

Writer Prunella Smith, whom readers may remember from Newland’s last book, Worlds Within Worlds, has found love with Jamie Claypole, an English transplant to Australia. The two are happy together, but Ella knows little about Jamie’s past. The gaps in her knowledge become apparent when Jamie is summoned home after his brother’s sudden death. All at once he becomes secretive about his family and where they live and how long he intends to stay with them.

The other narratives reiterate in various ways the problem Ella faces: whether to pursue Jamie and uncover his secrets or to reclaim the solitude she lost when he came to live with her.

Memories of unhappy past experience with a lover who abandoned her overshadow Ella’s hope for happiness with Jamie. Ella had been a ballerina with a promising career until a back injury forced her to give up ballet. Her lover, who was also her onstage partner, promptly discarded her once they could no longer dance together.

A Buddhist, Ella mediates regularly, and during meditation she’s transported into the world of Daniela, an Italian nun. On the brink of taking her final vows, Daniela finds herself attracted to the man who tends the nunnery’s garden. Like Ella, she faces an unexpected choice about the direction her life will take.

In addition, Ella has a recurring dream featuring a locksmith who may or may not be Jamie and who holds the secret to unlocking doors into countless other worlds, a metaphor for the creative and spiritual freedom that she seeks. She pursues the locksmith, but he seems always just out of reach.

Although troubled by Jamie’s secretiveness, Ella keeps writing fiction. Woven into The Lockman’s Secret is a steampunk novel that has taken hold of her imagination. The chapters appear as she writes them, and the story of intrepid reporter Nell and her efforts to uncover the villainy of Lord Burnett generates as much suspense as the main narrative. Like Ella, Nell values her independence and strives to prove her worth in the professional world. She worries that marriage to her employer’s son will mean the end of her career.

Newland interweaves all of these threads with consummate skill. Not once do they get tangled. Not once does the suspense flag, which is especially impressive in a contemplative novel like The Locksmith’s Secret. The credit goes to Newland’s mastery of narrative structure, to her concise and transparent prose that is eloquent without ever drawing attention to itself, and to her wonderfully varied and complex characters.
The worlds of Prunella Smith have a clarity and power that you won’t soon forget.

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Reviewed by Simon Townley

5 Stars

Tahlia Newland writes with beautiful simplicity – making this book a joy to read. Never do you feel lost, or wondering who is who or what is going in. Which is quite an achievement – because there are at least four completely separate stories in here, interwoven yet happening in different times, places and even realities.

The core story is set in our world, our times and is a good old-fashioned romance – with twists for sure and interesting interplay between cultures and value systems. It revolves around a man and a woman making choices about where and how to live their lives, who to share them with, and what can and should be compromised. If you love a place and you love a person and the two don’t necessarily mesh – how hard is it to choose? It’s a dilemma many of us have faced or will face at some point in our lives.

The other stories possess interesting parallels to the main tale – for example, the medieval nun wondering whether to stay in her order, or forsake it for the love of the local gardener. She too has to choose between one life and another and never does Newland make the choices look or feel easy.

The interweaving of these stories is accomplished with great skill and even humour. I’m sure there’s much more to come from these characters, and l look forward to reading more of the series.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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Reviewed by Pete Trewin

4 Stars

This was an interesting book for me. Well-written and pacy, I read it at a fair lick yet I wasn’t always sure exactly what was going on. The core story is a classic romance. The main character, Australian author Prunella Smith, has an English boyfriend. Things are going well; he is kind and attentive and the sex is great. Then he is called home when his brother dies to sort out the ancestral home and deal with a difficult, domineering mother. The question is, will he come back?
So far, so good. But three other stories, spread over time and other worlds, are inter-woven with the main plot. Prunella is writing a steampunk novel about Nell, a reporter investigating murders in a Victorian Australian city. Daniela, a novice nun in medieval times, is torn between her ambition to escape an abusive past and become a nun and her attraction for the convent gardener. Prunella is a Buddhist and, during her meditations, she has waking dreams in which she wanders through an empty city in search of a mysterious locksmith, who she glimpses but cannot reach. These dreams are quite disturbing, almost Freudian.
Despite this complexity, all the stories inter-weave and work with each other to create a satisfying novel.
Personally, I would have liked the characters in the main story to be playing for higher stakes but then that’s probably just me.
This book will appeal to fans of steampunk, romance, magic realism and fantasy. That’s a few genres to be going on with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood-tied

Blood-tied
Categories: ,
Publisher:
Published: February 13, 2018
Author's Twitter: @wendy_percival
A desperate crime, kept secret for 60 years. But time has a way of exposing the truth. And the repercussions are only just beginning. Esme Quentin is devastated when her sister Elizabeth is beaten unconscious, miles from her home. Two days later Esme discovers that Elizabeth has a secret past. Desperate for answers which the comatose Elizabeth cannot give, Esme enlists the help of her friend Lucy to discover the truth, unaware of the dangerous path she is treading. Together they uncover a trail of unresolved bitterness, blackmail and dubious inheritance and, as the truth emerges, Esme exposes evidence of a harrowing and pitiful crime. Realising too late the menace she has unwittingly unleashed, Esme is caught up in a terrifying ordeal. One that will not only test her courage and her sanity, but force her to confront her perception of birth and family.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

 

Wendy Percival’s Blood-Tied is a mystery centered on family origins. Esme Quintin rushes to the hospital where her sister, Elizabeth, lies in a coma after being attacked in a park. Witnesses had seen Elizabeth arguing with a man beforehand. The police return Elizabeth’s locket to Esme, and inside are photos of two strangers. Esme, a researcher with unquenchable curiosity, sets out to discover who they are and who put her sister in hospital. She soon learns that Elizabeth is her adopted sister and Elizabeth’s true origin might have everything to do with the attack.

Percival creates some distinctive characters. Esme intrigues me with her quiet determination and unexplained scar. Polly, an old woman whom Elizabeth had been helping, is altogether believable in her fright and anguish. The villain is a nasty piece of work; anyone involved in a disputed inheritance will recognize his type. Other characters could be more fully developed. Esme’s niece, Gemma, comes off as a sulky whiner whose behavior can be excused only because she’s under stress. The story requires that I care what happens to her, but I don’t.

The plot holds together well but occasionally seems contrived. At times Gemma’s opposition to her aunt appears to have no motive other than creating another complication. The police return Elizabeth’s locket and handbag to her sister, who was most likely attacked and now lies in a comma. Wouldn’t they keep the items as evidence and test them for fingerprints? No, because Esme must find the photos in the locket and the keys inside the bag.

Percival’s prose is economical and unpretentious, and she writes effective dialogue. I just wish she trusted her writing more. She inserts explanations as if afraid readers wouldn’t get the story otherwise. I cringe at statements like this: “For Esme it was the first step on what would prove to be a strange and bewildering journey.” Even though the story has only begun, Percival has done her work well enough that I already suspect that Esme will encounter things strange and bewildering. I don’t have to be told. When Esme goes to interview a witness, Percival writes: “He gave no indication as to whether her second visit in such a short time was an imposition. He received her well enough.” The preliminary summary undermines the drama of the scene that follows.

Quite a few mystery readers ought to enjoy Blood-Tied despite its flaws. The backstory of Elizabeth’s birth family is engrossing, and the story culminates in an exciting scene that won’t distress anyone with graphic violence.

The Darkness

The Darkness
Category:
Tag:
Author:
Published: August 12, 2012
Author's Twitter: @carver24
For Andrew Davidson, tragedy marks a turning point… He’s a respected G.P. but when his brother is found with his throat cut, his thoughts turn to anger and revenge. Known villains, who have evaded justice thanks to the efforts of Cairnburgh’s cleverest lawyer, begin to disappear. For rape victim Rhona Kirk, getting on with her life means taking control… She starts a new life in Dundee but haking off her past is difficult, and the men she’s connected with also go missing. When the threats start, she accepts help against her better judgment. For DCI Jack Carston, solving the puzzle is a race against time… He searches for the links between these vanished persons, aware all the time of his own darker impulses and sensing the bond between himself and the vigilante. What he finds is beyond his worst imaginings.

Reviews

December 15, 2014

Elegant Prose and Memorable characters

Bill Kirton’s The Darkness charts the moral journey of a doctor who succumbs to fantasies of revenge. Dr. Andrew Davidson seeks justice for his brother, who commits suicide after his wife and daughter die in a car crash. He wants to punish not just the drunk driver who caused the accident, but other sociopaths who destroy lives and evade punishment. One by one, suspected criminals begin to disappear from the streets of Cairnburgh, Scotland.

Inspector Jack Carston, charged with investigating the disappearances, has mixed feelings. He isn’t sorry to have rapists, child molesters, and killers off the streets, but whoever has taken them is equally a criminal. He and his partner set about solving the cases in their quiet, methodical way.

The Darkness pits a compelling antihero against a reticent hero. Both are intelligent and likable. Davidson is kind to his patients, considerate of his coworkers, and sweet to his girlfriend. Carston loves his wife and enjoys his work. But the doctor eclipses the inspector through most of the story.

The doctor becomes the dramatic center as soon as he appears, largely because of the narrative point of view. Most of the narrative is third-person omniscient, but the doctor addresses the reader in first-person, which is direct and intimate and places him at the emotional core of the story. Everything happens around him.

Once the investigation begins to break, Carston’s role becomes more active and his character takes center stage. Still, the doctor remains the heart of the story. What will he do with the captives in his basement? Will his sanity survive the trauma of the crimes he’s committed?

Kirton writes elegant prose and creates memorable characters. Even secondary players stand out. I won’t forget the prostitute Rhona or her devoted boyfriend, Billy, for a long time. The Darkness might confound some readers who expect every mystery novel to follow a conventional pattern, but those who enjoy intelligent psychological suspense are in for a treat.

 

Pete Trewin

4 Stars

GO DARK, YOUNG MAN
The advice to beginner crime and thriller genre writers right now is, if you want to shift books, ‘go dark, young man’. Violence, murder, rape, bad language? Old hat. We want burnt bodies, extreme mutilation, anal rape, every third word in the dialogue a swear word. The villain is usually a monster who enjoys murdering and torturing, and the motivation is often sketchy ie the villain is a psychopath who was beaten as a child.
The premise is: ‘bad person does bad thing’. But, to me, ‘good person does bad thing’ is a lot more interesting. This is the premise of The Darkness by Bill Kirton, a thought-provoking twist on the police procedural genre.
The ‘villain’, Andrew Davidson, is an ordinary G.P. His brother’s family were killed in an accident by a drunken driver and the sensitive brother committed suicide. The villain evaded justice by hiring a clever lawyer and then Davidson notices that other local villains have escaped paying for wicked crimes in a similar manner. So, he decides to do something about it. This story is told by Davidson in the first person. The other lead character is D.C.I. Jack Carsten – his story is told in the third person – who notices that local villains are fortuitously disappearing from his manor. He can’t help but feel that they have deserved anything they get. The story of rape victim/prostitute Rhona Kirk – the men she is involved with also start to go missing – is expertly woven into the main narrative.
I know what you are thinking. Not Charles Bronson again. Death Wish 25? In any civilised country with a developed legal system clever lawyers will get the guilty off. In the USA it is summarised in the saying: ‘if you’re rich you walk, if you’re poor you fry’. But what to do about it, other than fight for political reform of the judicial system? Take matters into your own hands when the end result of self-righteous vigilantism is often worse than the original crime?
Bill Kirton has obviously thought about this and the twist to this novel will explode your preconceptions. The pacing is a little slow and I didn’t really get gripped by the novel until halfway through. But the interplay and battle of wits between the two main characters builds to a riveting conclusion. The book is well-written and the prose is clean and active, though there were several groups of typos in my ebook which looked like the result of ‘Microsoft Word going wonky’. Easy to fix. Similarly easy to sort out were the occasional ‘head-hopping’ changes of point of view within scenes. These are minor quibbles.
I found the book interesting and thought-provoking and a welcome change from the formulaic police procedural/crime thriller which tries to go dark but sometimes makes you slam the book shut in disgust. With this novel Bill Kirton has shown that ‘the darkness’ lies not down slippery steps into a dank and musty-smelling cellar but in the heart of each individual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Obsession

The Obsession
Publisher:
The Obsession is a vibrant novel of suspense and murder, by turns intriguing and surprising, as three smart, driven people match wits with their lives at stake. When Stan, an American grad student falls for Lina, a lovely Italian scholar, his unrequited passion turns perverse. When he follows her from a mid-west college town to Bologna’s ancient streets, they are joined by John, Lina’s American lover and Stan’s mentor. Their love-lust triangle re-ignites, and they flee and chase down the storied Italian boot to a shocking conclusion on volcanic Mt. Etna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Car Bomb

The Car Bomb
Publisher:
Published: May 7, 2013
Detroit’s top TV anchor Frank DeFauw hunts down the story of a judge who may be corrupt—and is one of his best friends. Booze, drugs, womanizing and a passion for the news are all part of what makes this brilliant, erratic newsman a major player in this deeply troubled city. Finally, Frank is forced to decide if digging out the truth about his pal the judge is worth risking his own career, family and skin. With supple prose, brilliant dialogue, sharply-drawn characters and a surprising plot, this is a gripping tale of betrayal, murder and redemption.

Reviewed 

A Noir Mystery With A Slight Twist

3 Stars

The Car Bomb by T.V. LoCicero opens on the streets of a dying Detroit that’s trying desperately to survive. A young mother and her two children are incinerated in a fiery explosion as witnesses watch in horror. It’s up to an aging, hard-drinking, womanizing news anchor to come to grips with his life and solve the crime which may involve his best friend. The tale builds to an edgy crescendo of action that you won’t want to miss.

Although the story is well-told, there are still some aspects that could have used work, and became impossible to ignore. The first half of the book is slow, concentrating on the character of a conceited, adulterous newscaster, Frank DeFauw. However, I missed the motivation that drives him to rise above his depravity in order to righteously go after his best friend who was only vaguely suspected of illegal activities.

The story is told to the reader which doesn’t give us much opportunity to get involved inside the plot or imagine ourselves as part of the drama. I wanted to feel what it was like to be in Detroit’s ghetto, hear the cries of those society has cast aside, smell the gas fumes rising above the sidewalks, see a poet’s graffiti scribbled across a rundown cityscape, and taste the merchandise dealers were pushing on the street corner.

In spite of its faults, it’s worth a read. The Car Bomb is a noir mystery with a slight twist. The lascivious characters are found in the lap of suburbia while the moral prize-winners emerge from the bleak, sleazy side of town. This book should appeal to fans of old-fashioned crime fiction.

3 Stars.

Hollow Moon

Hollow Moon
Publisher:
Published: May 28, 2012
Author's Twitter: @WyrdStar
What is the secret of the hollow moon? Join intrepid young heroine Ravana O’Brien in a fast-paced and witty science-fiction mystery of interstellar intrigue. Having fled civil war sixteen light years away, Ravana and her father now live in the sleepy commune of the hollow moon, a forgotten colony ship drifting around Barnard’s Star. Yet the evil priest Taranis, the dark architect of destiny, has returned from the dead. What began as a minor escapade to rescue her erratic electric pet soon leads Ravana and friends on an incredible planet-hopping voyage into the shady dystopian world of politics, terrible music and rebellion! Hollow Moon is an adventure for all who relish a dose of humour and practical astrophysics with their fantasy, for young adults and adults young at heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloodie Bones

Bloodie Bones
Publisher:
Published: May 11, 2015
Author's Twitter: @LucienneWrite
In 1796 Bow Street Runner and amateur pugilist Dan Foster is sent to Somerset to infiltrate a poaching gang suspected of murdering Lord Oldfield’s gamekeeper, Josh Castle. Dan has walked into a volatile situation: the locals are up in arms against Lord Oldfield for enclosing Barcombe Forest and depriving them of their rights to gather fuel and food. Against a background of vandalism, arson and riot, Dan discovers that there were others with a grudge against Josh. However, Lord Oldfield orders him to arrest the poachers. When Dan learns that Josh had a claim to the Oldfield estate his suspicions focus on Lord Oldfield. Before he can confront him, rioters attack Oldfield Hall protesting against the arrests. During the fight, Dan finds himself at the mercy of the local doctor and realises that he and Josh were rivals in love. Dan narrowly escapes death and arrests the murderer: Doctor Russell.  

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

May 18, 2014

5 Stars

 

When Lord Oldfields, a magistrate and wealthy landowner, asks for assistance to determine who murdered his gamekeeper, Josh Castle, Foster’s superior dispatches him to the small village. Disguising himself as a wandering itinerant, Foster becomes part of the gang of poachers who are Lord Oldfields’ real targets. In the process, he uncovers deeds from the past, some so evil that their perpetrators will do anything—including murder—to keep them hidden.

Lucienne is a masterful storyteller, skillfully weaving history, culture, and the social customs of the period into the story in a natural manner that not only piques the reader’s interest, but helps the reader with a watchful eye and attentive mind to figure out whodunit.

This story has a profound theme. The injustices perpetrated upon the poor by the privileged, how people react to events over which they have little or no control, and the importance of integrity and empathy in alleviating the human condition.

Not one word in this story is wasted, and it is told in a manner that both entertains and educates—the true sign of a master wordsmith. Extremely well edited, I could not find one comma or semicolon out of place, and unlike books by some of today’s bestsellers, no misspellings or grammatical glitches—nary a one.

Unlike many books I read, which are good stories, but contain a few formatting or other errors, making it impossible for me to give them a top rating in all honesty, I found nothing here that gives me pause; and, I re-read several passages just to make sure. Actually, I have to get personal here and say that I re-read several passages because I found the prose so entertaining, I just wanted to go back over it to enjoy reading truly great writing.

I found everything about this book engrossing, from a cover that conveyed in stark symbolism the theme of the story, to passages that glistened with brilliance. The characters were magnificently portrayed. Dan Foster, the protagonist, is totally captivating—from his willingness to face his own weaknesses, to his devotion to right and justice, but most compelling, his sense of honor and decency. Even the secondary characters were fully fleshed and well-rounded, creating a setting that made me feel that I was there. I could see, hear, and smell the surroundings, and sense what characters were thinking and feeling in a story that was impossible to put down once I started reading.

An easy five stars.

Identity

Identity
Category:
Author:
Published: November 18, 2013
Author's Twitter: @shawnaseed
Sharlah Webb was turning her life around, until the day she disappeared, launching a mystery that takes decades to unravel. A novel of suspense, love and finding your true self.

Vingede

Vingede
Author:
Publisher:
Published: October 4, 2013
Author's Twitter: @KrisiKeley
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.