Book Reviews: Darker Than Any Shadow by Tina Whittle and Eleven Pipers Piping by C.C. Benison

Darker Than Any ShadowDarker Than Any Shadow
A Tai Randolph Mystery     
Tina Whittle
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2012
ISBN: 978-159058-546-7

The second entry in the author’s intriguing series featuring a gun shop owner and a corporate security officer is a winner. Heavily populated with interesting characters, the turbulent love affair between the protagonists informs and leavens what could otherwise have been a run-of-the-mill mystery. Indeed, the identity of the killer, while important to the story, was, to this reader, not as compelling as the characters, and the milieu.

The setting is Atlanta, Georgia, during the run-up to a major poetry slam competition. Some of the characters have known each other from childhood and others seem to have uncertain, even mysterious backgrounds. It’s hot in Atlanta, and gun shop owner Tai Randolph is mentoring her long-time friend, rising poet, Rico. There are teams of competing poets as well as individual efforts and a surplus of egos swirling around as participants prepare.  Then murder intrudes.

The relationship developing between our principal “investigator,” amateur tho she is, Tai Randolph and her lover, Trey Seaver, is much more than casually interesting to observe. Seaver is a former cop with a high level of crisis and SWAT training, excellent skills and more than a little rigidity as regards the rules of life and the law. The almost constant battles between the lovers as they try to accommodate each other is a fascinating piece of this very entertaining novel. I recommend it strongly.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.


Eleven Pipers PipingEleven Pipers Piping
Father Christmas Series
C.C. Benison
Delacorte Press, October 2012
ISBN: 978-0-440-33984-7
Also available in hardcover

When this book arrived pre-armed as a traditional British mystery, I was prepared for just that. Upon reflection I should not have been surprised at the depth of character development, the intricate plot with several surprising twists and turns, the careful and even loving development of understanding and human insight residing in the pages.

The writing draws one in almost instantly and never really lets go until the end. Yes, the book is long, yes there are many characters and yes, there is an important if sprawling back story that is vital to an understanding of the present-day machinations of the characters.

The Reverend Tom Christmas, widower, father and rather recently appointed Vicar of the hamlet of Thornford Regis, is still learning the ins and outs of the social and political life of the town and its inhabitants. Father Christmas is the focus of this novel, and the entire story devolves through his kindly if somewhat distorted lens. Father Christmas is dealing, you see, with the still unsolved murder of his wife a few years ago. This novel follows Twelve Drummers Drumming and will be followed soon by Ten Lords A-Leaping. Therein lies a clue as to what this novelist is all about, something worthy of a reader’s time and attention.

The author employs an interesting literary device. The novel begins with an elaborate and newsy letter from Father Christmas’s housekeeper to her mum, an interesting device used to impart vital information that is mostly outside of the ken of Father Christmas. Periodically Madrun Prowse writes these letters which help readers follow the action. The town hosts a musical aggregation called Thistle but Mostly Rose pipe band gathered, as the novel continues, to celebrate the birth of poet Robert Burns at a sumptuous dinner. At the dinner as the plot swiftly develops amid a rare snowstorm, and readers will meet nearly all of the forty-some characters in the book.

Eleven Pipers Piping is a warm, thoughtful if long, traditional English mystery in all the best possible ways. Well and nicely written, the narrative takes the reader by the arm and carries her comfortably through an enthralling and heartfelt story.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, July 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.