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River of Glass by Jaden Terrell

November 3, 2014 Leave a comment

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Over the last two years, I’ve reviewed a few mystery novels with an agenda to deal with issues of contemporary importance. This has included the abnormally high murder rate in some Mexican towns, people trafficking, and so on. It may be significant that many of these novels dealing with the darker side of human nature are Scandinavian. The literal darkness that descends in the northern latitudes during their longer winters often seems to be matched by a fascination with human depravity in its various forms. This experience has led me, on some occasions, to feel somewhat manipulated. It’s not exactly that I’m beginning to suffer compassion fatigue. I haven’t yet lost my sense of the horror and real injustice suffered by the victims of these crimes. I’ve simply found the themes overly dominant, feeling as if these crimes are themselves being presented as a form of entertainment as we watch the not unnaturally depressed detectives follow the clues to trap the killers and imprison the abusers.

Thematically, River of Glass by Jaden Terrell (Permanent Press, 2014) is dealing with people trafficking. A number of young women have been induced to travel to America from Asia only to find themselves trapped in a living hell where they are taught to be submissive and then sold on to rich johns. All this comes to Jared McKean courtesy of a body in the dumpster at the back of the building where he has his office. The next day an Asian woman is waiting outside his office. She claims to be his half-sister. Backed up by a number of photographs, she explains his father went through a form of local marriage when he was serving in Vietnam. They were expecting him to go back after the war, but he never did. Now her daughter has gone missing in America. She had insisted on coming to find her grandfather. Once he overcomes his scepticism, this sets Jared off on a search for his niece.

Jared (Beth) Terrell

Jared (Beth) Terrell

Under normal circumstances, he would call on the help of his old friend in the local police force. But he’s somewhat distracted. This leaves his main point of contact the temperamental Malone who has yet to warm up to Jared’s approach to investigating crime. Unfortunately, although he begins to make progress thanks to all his friends, the local law enforcement focus shifts to investigate the activities of a bomber who claims to be exterminating people who have shown themselves to be enemies of justice. This leaves Jared and his half-sister in the driving seat of the investigation without official support.

Although we have scenes embedded in the broad narrative explaining what’s happening to those kept imprisoned, the reader’s eye is kept squarely on the characters of those in pursuit. Since Jared’s disabled son goes through a health crisis, the emotional complexities of his life are laid bare. At a time when he wants and needs to be there for his son, he discovers he has another previously unsuspected part of the family to worry about. In the end the compromises he makes persuade his half-sister into greater recklessness than is prudent. It’s at this point we discover the significance of the book’s title which is appropriately vicious.

What makes this book so satisfying is the balance between the awfulness of the treatment endured by those in captivity, and the determination of those in pursuit to find out who’s responsible. The result is a proper context for the darkness which offers depth and some affirmation for the essential resilience of the human spirit. Those who endure, find some redemption. Those who fight for what’s right find themselves the victim of their own naïveté, but nevertheless can still draw enough strength to continue when the truth emerges. This makes River of Glass one of the best thrillers of the year so far. It’s powerful without overwhelming the sense of compassion we should all feel for those victimised in this way. I strongly recommend this book.

For a review of the first two books in the series, see:
A Cup Full of Midnight
Racing the Devil.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

Unnatural Murder by Connie Dial

October 25, 2014 Leave a comment

Unnatural-Murder-986428-fc399550babc6d57bd10

When I went to university I was, to all intents and purposes, a country bumpkin. I’d spent more or less all my time in a small village on the North-East coast of England. So suddenly coming into a major city with one of the top universities just as the counter-cultural revolution was getting into its stride in the 1960s (later epitomised as the time of “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” by Ian Dury) ripped off my rose-tinted spectacles and invited me to make decisions about a whole range of issues I’d never thought about. Coming forward to the modern young adult leaving the nest to study, the difference could not be more pronounced. Whereas I was completely naive, today’s young have been exposed to the internet from their earliest years and are aware of most aspects of human behaviour long before they crack the teen barrier. To that extent, prejudices have been formed earlier and so can be more difficult to dislodge when later confronting the reality.

My reason for starting in this way is the theme of Unnatural Murder by Connie Dial (The Permanent Press, 2014). Today, it’s almost impossible to avoid knowing something about the range of behavior which exists on the curve from the fetishistic use of individual items of clothing, through transvestism, to transsexualism which may involve the use of hormones and/or surgery to make adjustments to external appearance. This book begins with the murder of a cross-dressing male who’s about to begin the process of gender reassignment. Just before he dies, he goes into St. Margaret Mary’s for confession. Unfortunately, instead of offering a helpful and supportive ear, Father O’Reilly’s hostile indifference drives the man away. Feeling guilty, the priest follows only to find the man killed just a few yards from the church.

The technical problem for the author to solve is one of authorial attitude. It would be possible to construct a judgmental plot in which many readers’ prejudices might be confirmed about what can be characterised as perverse sexual behaviour. Yet as the current cultural climate has shifted in favour of same-sex marriage and against stereotypical homophobic and other gender-based attitudes, the author should really be aiming for at least a neutral point of view. In a case involving transvestism, it would not be unusual for the partner to completely accept the decision of the other to dress in clothing considered appropriate to the other gender. If there are children from such a relationship, they are often even more supportive, accepting the decision of their father or mother as being true to his or her essential nature. The reaction can be different in cases of transsexualism where feelings of abandonment and rejection can be more prominent.

Connie Dial representing expertise and authenticity

Connie Dial representing expertise and authenticity

Since this is another book in which we see inside the police station run by Captain Josie Corsino, this problem is magnified because, as a woman in a role more often than not seen as “rightfully” belonging to a man, she has to protect herself, navigate the difficult sexual politics in the ranks of the officers serving in her station, and enforce a general sense of respect for the victim(s), no matter what the officers’ private opinions. Thematically, therefore, we’re confronted by a number of different situations in which gender politics are relevant. Women in the Hollywood Community Police Station have to confront prejudice just as some of those who cross-dress and appear in public can also find themselves in emotional and/or physical danger. In both cases, individuals are deliberately stepping outside the roles attributed to them by conservative culture. That they choose to confront conventional beliefs and expectations shows considerable bravery.

From a purely technical point of view, the author makes no clear distinction between the male transvestite who’s entirely happy to retain male status and often has entirely successful relationships whether comprising the same or different biological sexes, and the individual who seeks a surgical intervention to reassign gender identity. There seems to be an implicit assumption that all cross-dressers are unhappy with their biological sex. No-one with experience in psychosexual cases would agree with this proposition.

This lack of clarity and a failure to avoid a number of clichés in the relationships of those around Corsino herself, leave the book feeling emotionally superficial and unsatisfactory. This is rather a shame. Just as there have now been a number of books which deal with the situation of an African American who can pass as a Caucasian, there’s a real need for a book to constructively engage either with the individuals who can pass as a member of the opposite sex or who elect to dress in nonconforming clothing without any wish to be taken as a member of that sex. Sadly, this is not one of them. As to the mystery element, it’s somewhat mechanical and depends on some slightly unlikely events for the “right” outcomes to be achieved. The general sense of life in the Hollywood Community Police Station, however, retains the authentic feel of the first novel I read from this author. So Unnatural Murder is socially interesting in the authorial attitudes revealed. It starts with the title and goes downhill from there. All murders should be considered unnatural, but I suspect this author intends readers to infer this is the murder of a man with unnatural tendencies. Worse, I can’t particularly recommend it as a murder mystery.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

A Cup Full of Midnight by Jaden Terrell

September 1, 2014 2 comments

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Having had some issues with the narrative pacing of the first in the series, I metaphorically pick up a digital copy of A Cup Full of Midnight by Jaden Terrell (Permanent Press, 2012) featuring ex-cop and now PI Jared McKean. This continues in the best raditions of a serial with characters who were slightly less prominent in the first book, now stepping into the limelight. This time, the focus of attention is Josh, our hero’s nephew. Much to the despair (if not anger of his father), the young sprog comes out as gay and, to add insult to injury, becomes involved with the Goth scene. Except, even this version of the Goth scene is tainted with darker colours as he moves into the world of vampires, witches and others who claim some kind of supernatural status or powers. This leads to him becoming involved with a manipulative man who claims to be a real vampire. A short while after the young man loses his appeal, said vampire is killed in what seems to have been a ritualistic way. Except it’s not at all clear what the ritual might have been, so mixed up is all the symbology. What’s particularly clear is the depth of anger in the killing. Normally, this would not be a problem, but the sprog and a young woman were in the neighbourhood about the time and, worse, the young girl makes a generalised confession that she was responsible for the death. When two less than caring police officers come to interview the sprog, they frighten him and he attempts suicide. This inspires McKean to investigate. He may have thought the man deserved to die for abusing minors, but the suggestion his nephew might have had something to do with it passes a red line.

Jared (Beth) Terrell

Jared (Beth) Terrell

So this book adheres more closely to the optimal PI narrative pacing model. We have a gentle introduction to the problem and then our PI sets off to investigate. The first hurdle he meets is the number of people the victim had angered in his relatively short lifetime. It was probably something he worked at consciously, seeing how far he could push a real talent for upsetting others. One person describes the victim as a man who’d dipped into the Great Darkness and scooped out a cup full of midnight. So whether it was others in the Goth scene, or the gay scene, or the parents of the young kids he slept with, or the locals in the neighborhood where he lived, there were probably a lot of people waiting in line for their chance to kill him. Anyway, after doing the first round of talking with all the possibles, he knows he’s on the right track because someone with supernatural powers materialises a rattlesnake in his truck in that cold interstitial period before Christmas becomes New Year.

Very much as the first book, this is primarily interested in relationships. You may think you know people, but even those you’ve known for years can surprise you. Take your best friend who’s dying of AIDS. He has a steady boyfriend but he’s prepared to sacrifice that relationship to help an ex-boyfriend who’s that much closer to death. It’s all about priorities and the sacrifices you’re prepared to take to help others or just fit in with the crowd. That’s why Josh is something of an enigma. This is a boy McKean has known from birth, except just how well does he know him? It’s not just a simple matter of him running with the wrong crowd, meeting up with them on a casual basis. He’d been a willing catamite for the victim and who can be entirely sure what he might have done while under that man’s influence. The result as described here is full of resolutions (it’s almost New Year, after all). Some of these endings are tragic, others merely sad. For those left standing, life goes on for now but little in life is ever certain. A traffic accident or some other unexpected event could end it tomorrow. The young never have enough experience to understand how short their lives are. The older people have enough experience to be able to live with the knowledge they will die one day (some sooner than others).

A Cup Full of Midnight turns out to be something of a tour-de-force. The pacing is just right and, more importantly, the people ring true. No matter whether we’re dealing with the more extreme or marginalised members of society, or those whose middle class status is supposed to make them more law-abiding and less dangerous, everyone reacts in the moment. It’s the fallibility of humanity that everyone can be tempted or manipulated into doing the wrong thing. All it takes is someone with sufficient insight and determination to cause chaos, and the world can fall apart. Then it takes someone like McKean to help stick plaster on the wounds and hope people can recover. If that means, sometimes, he has to look the other way, that’s a price worth paying to protect the weak and vulnerable from doing further damage to themselves. Protect and serve doesn’t just apply to police officers. It also applies to PIs and concerned citizens like McKean. Overall, this is an impressive character study and recommended.

For reviews of two other books in the series, see:
Racing the Devil
River of Glass.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

Racing the Devil by Jaden Terrell

August 31, 2014 1 comment

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When putting together a PI novel with thriller pretensions, one of the key considerations is narrative pacing. Not to put too fine a point on it, if a reader is expecting action, being slow to introduce it will result in boredom and a switch-off. But equally, having non-stop action can become tedious. Even in the most high-adrenaline adventures, people do take short breathers. So, for example, the James Bond franchise has developed the introductory blast of action lasting five to ten minutes. This captures the attention of viewers by showing a sample of what they can expect when they get to the climax. The plot proper can then begin and slowly escalate up to said climax when all the major stunts are played out. This reflects the general danger that if events are flashing by too quickly, neither viewers nor readers may gain a clear understanding of what’s happening. Of course, cultural anthropologists may suggest Western people with digital inputs are developing very short attention spans and need constant restimulation if they are going to reach the end of the film or book. This may persuade authors to aim for a mini-cliffhanger at the end of every chapter to persuade readers to turn the pages more quickly to resolve their feelings of fear and anxiety. But the dilemma for authors could not be more clearly seen than in Racing the Devil by Jaden Terrell (Permanent Press, 2012).

Jared (Beth) Terrell

Jared (Beth) Terrell

This is the first of the Jared McKean mysteries. He has an eight-year-old son with Down Syndrome, an ex-wife, and an array of very interesting and supportive friends. The opening sixty or so pages of this book flash by with incidents of note occurring on a regular basis. So: goes into pub, meets woman who has been battered and seems in need of protection; has sex with said woman; wakes up to find himself framed for a murder; makes a bad decision, and is arrested; is beaten up in prison; and then has time to draw breath when his friends bail him out. Now he can begin trying to discover who the mastermind is. Yet even at this early stage, there are problems. To take but two examples, he’s fuzzy when he wakes up after being drugged, but that’s no reason to leave his vehicle untouched. Anyone who thinks someone may be framing them should take the chance to search the vehicle to see whether there’s any other evidence left to be found. To walk away is simply idiotic (or perhaps it isn’t, who knows?). It’s also strange, given the victim apparently kept a diary of where she met the fake McKean, that the real deal does not try to prove the negatives, i.e. that he was not present at all those times. Ah well, you don’t read these books for their logic.

So having our hero back on the mean streets, he has to earn enough to pay the bills and investigate who’s set him up. Although we continue to make progress, the pace now drops quite dramatically (as you would expect). So we’re trying to interview the neighbours and then off to see the deceased’s sister for a little horse massage (no, really, all he does is rub the horse). As the investigation proceeds, we get time for friends and, more importantly, family as he meets his newly-pregnant ex and her new husband on the occasion of his son’s eighth birthday. Indeed, one of the features of this book is the time devoted to exploring this PI’s psychology through the extended backstory that emerges. This makes the book slightly nonstandard. In the conventional PI novel, our noirish protagonist gets out there to investigate. He gets hit a few times, and hands out a beating when it’s deserved or in self-defence. There’s at least one dame that he falls for but, more often than not, she proves unsuitable for one reason or another. This leaves him alone at the end of the book. But Jared McKean is instinctively both a loyal friend and a “family man”. Under normal circumstances, this would mean he lives a suburban life with wife and children. Except his life has not been kind to him. He was married and they have a disabled son whom they both continue to love. He currently shares accommodation with a gay man, but their relationship is entirely platonic. Our hero is straight, but a strong friend. In other words, this hero can only be understood by watching the way in which his relationships ebb and flow. This makes the book distinctly more interesting to read than many more conventional PI novels. Thus, although I might have preferred some of the plot elements to be a little more tightly put together, Racing the Devil proves to be a highly engaging read with a reasonably satisfying explanation of why our hero is the one chosen to be framed, and what the broader motivations are. It will be interesting to see if later books in this series improve on this opening novel.

For reviews of two other books by Jaden Terrell, see:
A Cup Full of Midnight
The River of Glass.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay

August 22, 2014 2 comments

Crossing the Line by Frederique Molay

Crossing the Line by Frédérique Molay (Le French Book, 2014) originally titled Dent pour dent (the biblical phrase, “a tooth for a tooth” which I can’t help but feel is the better title) translated by Anne Trager. It’s coming up to Christmas in Paris and Nico Sirsky, Head of the Paris Criminal Investigation Division has now perfected the relationship with Caroline (love really is more than skin deep) which has the approval of his son Dimitri (his ex-wife has gone AWOL, possibly seeking treatment for depression). He’s strengthening the leg where he was shot and is now back at work full-time, where he’s supposed to be focusing on solving one of the biggest jewellery heists France has ever seen. Meanwhile Dr Patrice Rieux is about to begin demonstrating the removal of a wisdom tooth to a class of students. They use “heads” donated to science. This particular head, only twelve days old, has a note inserted into a molar. It reads, “I was murdered”. Everyone wants this investigated in a way that exonerates the Paris Descartes University from blame, i.e. this is a real murder and not a prank by one of its students. The immediate problem, of course, is that when bodies are donated, they do not stay in one piece. The head goes to the schools of neurology, opthalmology, and dentistry for students to work on. The soft tissues and bones go to other units. Carefully preserved in cold rooms, the parts are available for use for several months depending on the storage temperature. The body, when whole and alive, belonged to Bruno Guedj. Fortunately, there’s a bullet wound in the head so it could be murder or suicide. But why, then, was there no autopsy? Why was a body with a bullet wound to the head deemed an unsuspicious death?

Frédérique Molay

Frédérique Molay

In every respect, this is a most pleasing mystery. Why should a man preparing to commit suicide, have his dentist implant a message in one of his teeth saying he was about to be murdered? The answer would normally be to persuade the life insurance company that his suicide was a murder. But, in France, the standard anti-suicide provision only applies during the first twelve months of the policy. Thereafter, the insurer pays out on death, no matter what the cause. Then there’s the uncertainty of the means of transmitting the message. What was the point of leaving his body to science on the off-chance the message would be found when it would be so much easier just to leave an explanatory note with his lawyer or someone else reliable? I could go on, but this series of questions should indicate the quality of the puzzle to be solved. More importantly, it also flags up the problem of how precisely to investigate the “situation”. When looking through a period of time, how do you tell what’s significant and might have triggered this man’s belief his life was in danger? The answer to this immediate problem comes slowly but surely. Except, when it arrives, it’s obvious that this is just the top of quite a substantial iceberg.

This type of murder mystery is always a delight as our seasoned detective leads his team through all the procedures necessary to investigate and collect the information, some of which may prove to be relevant evidence. This being a French mystery, we’re immediately cast into their fairly Byzantine legal system which is riven by jurisdictional rivalries and political constraints. Fortunately, the team that eventually comes together has the mutual trust and the confidence to follow the trail to wherever it leads (no matter how inconvenient that might be). The ending comes just in time for it to be a Christmas present for Nico Sirsky and his family, producing the right seasonal feelings without it being overly sentimental. Putting everything together gives you a highly entertaining and intellectually stimulating read. Crossing the Line is unreservedly recommended.

For the review of the first in the series by Frédérique Molay, see The 7th Woman.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

August 21, 2014 3 comments

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs

Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs (Bantam, 2014) is the seventeenth to feature Temperance Brennan. This begins with our hero called into the Cold Case Unit at the Law Enforcement Centre in Charlotte, N.C. The meeting has been triggered by a Vermont detective called Umparo Rodas who has linked one of his cases to others involving Anique Pomperleau. This is a woman who has kidnapped, tortured, and killed young girls. She managed to elude Brennan and the then lead detective, Andrew Ryan, in Monday Mourning (2004). This return to the Pomperleau case is professionally and personally embarrassing to our hero because, having worked with Andrew Ryan in Montreal, they had become occasional lovers. After the death of his teenage daughter from a drug overdose, he has dropped completely out of sight. So Temperance’s first job is to track him down and persuade him to return to civilisation and the investigation of crime. She’s not entirely sure where to start looking but Brennan’s mother, Daisy, turns out to be not only skilled with computers, but also intensely manipulative and potentially dying of cancer. She comes up with a vital piece of information as to where he might be hiding and, courtesy of a flight south of the border, the full cold case team is in play. Meanwhile Erskine “Skinny” Slidell is dealing with a new kidnapping and, of course, the resulting dead body may be tied into the serial killer’s growing list of victims. Once Ryan is back up to speed, they do what they can locally and then fly up to Canada to see if anyone remembers anything that might help then find Pomperleau before she kills again. We then come to one of these very ingenious clues that takes them down to Vermont. I read books for clues like this. They are unlikely ever to work in the real world but, on paper, you are just left with admiration for the author in having created it.

Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs

This is a particularly pleasing book in which our hero follows the trail of breadcrumbs using the tools of her trade. Whereas other fictional detectives rely on others to do the forensic work and then apply their own idiosyncratic intelligence to determine whodunnit, Brennan comes as the complete package. She has the knowledge and skills to look at the bones, observe an autopsy, and ask pertinent questions. Yes, she’s less than tactful in this book and shows less patience than usual. We can put that down to the combination of her mother’s “condition”, the reappearance of Ryan, and the general sense of disgust all feel when dealing with cases involving children and young adults. The result is a simple story of medical detective work, told in uncluttered prose which zips us along to the necessary melodramatic confrontation, followed by the debriefing explanations and an epilogue. It’s a very professionally put-together murder mystery involving a serial killer.

This is not to say the book is without flaws. For example, there’s no reason for Brennan’s mother to turn out to be so impressive. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time we’ve met the mother (her father has been dead a long time). I can understand why Kathy Reichs might want to introduce the character. It gives more depth to the general understanding of Brennan. But it would have been sufficient for the plot to stop at the psychological condition and cancer. Police forces can sometimes be allowed to shine when serial killers are threatening local children. I also thought the shooting of one individual was unnecessary. Yes, it does explain why no-one among the usual crew is answering their phone at the critical time, but I’m not convinced it fits comfortably into the Slidell character arc. So, overall, Bones Never Lie is a very good story with lots of interesting medical matters demystified. On balance, I think the flaws relatively minor, leaving this book on my recommended list.

For reviews of other books by Kathy Reichs, see:
The Bones of the Lost
Flash and Bones.

A copy of this book was sent to me for review.

Doyle After Death by John Shirley

August 17, 2014 8 comments

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Doyle After Death by John Shirley (Witness Impulse, 2013) starts off as great fun in a metaphysical fashion and then grows slightly more serious towards the end as various characters are forced to confront the reality of their true selves. On the first page, our narrator Nick Fogg dies in Las Vegas. He’s doing his best to earn a crust as a private investigator but ends up with a big burden of guilt. No matter what your view of the afterlife (which may vary from angels strumming harps to a number of virgins waiting for you if you have killed an infidel or two), his spirit ends up in a new body beside a wine-coloured sea. Walking along the shore, he find the official greeter who duly introduces him into the local community which is called Garden Rest. As you will gather from the book’s title, one of the village’s residents is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and so begins the tale of Sherlock’s creator and a modern gumshoe who are caught up in an investigation of a murder. That’s when he’s not drinking, engaging in sex, and denying he brought any cigarettes over with him — tobacco is the one thing everyone seems to miss in this “place”.

So now you see why I said the book was metaphysical. All the people on this plane are already dead so it’s somewhat paradoxical to suggest more of more of them might be able to die again. The trick, if you can master it, is to control the elements from which the body has been constructed and deformulate it. The locals have the reverse process down to a fine art. If you want a new house, all you have to do is have a couple of experts thrust their hands into the soil on the site and, hey presto, the building is formulated out of ectoplasm drawn from the ground. Indeed, the first third of the book is a rather gentle ramble round this part of the afterlife with Nick Fogg being shown the ropes and introduced to the cast of local characters who are drawn from across time and racial divides.

John Shirley with an interesting view of the afterlife

John Shirley with an interesting view of the afterlife

This makes the book slightly uncharacteristic of Shirley who’s better known for hard-edged storytelling in the science fiction and horror genres. Although there’s a wealth of careful thinking invested in the creation of this plane of reality and the rules governing existence on it, this is more a fantasy. Yes there are moments when there are signs there may be slightly more horror underlying the operation of life after death, but this is a fairly amiable murder mystery with Doyle using some of the forensic skills he learned from Dr Bell to pick up clues. Only as we come into the final third when Doyle’s wife is kidnapped do we see something of the “larger than life” style that Shirley usually employs.

As to the mystery element, we know little of the two men who have died. It seems one was a homeless man back on Earth who didn’t change much when he crossed over. The victim found as Fogg arrives was a botanist, but we’re not given a chance to meet him or get any sense that Doyle and Fogg are engaged in seeking justice for him. It’s just a puzzle there to be solved as and when the peregrinations around this neck of the woods permit. Rather the focus of the book is the failure of both Doyle and Fogg to resolve their emotions relating to their earlier lives. In the afterlife, Doyle can have access to the two women he married when alive. So which one should he prefer? Similarly, through dreams, Fogg relives the key moments before he died and we get to see why he feels so guilty. By and large, these elements seem the strongest in the book. So as our detective duo move towards a form of redemption, they have the murders to solve and Doyle’s kidnapped wife to recover. In this, the birds and local wildlife offer words of comment and encouragement. And, in the end, there’s a reasonably fair resolution of the major plot elements. So this is a gentle book with occasional weird digressions. It’s not a Holmesian-style mystery with deductive reasoning festooning the landscape. They get the right answer because there’s no-one else left to chase. This makes Doyle After Death a fairly undemanding read with occasional fun and some interesting ideas about what an afterlife might look like.

For a review of a fiction collection by John Shirley, see In Extremis. There are two standalone novels:
Bleak History
New Taboos
and two novelisations called:
Borderlands: The Fallen
Resident Evil: Retribution.

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