Book Review: Styx & Stone by James W. Ziskin

Styx & StoneStyx & Stone
An Ellie Stone Mystery
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books, October 2013
ISBN 978-1-61614-819-5
Trade Paperback

It’s 1960 and Ellie Stone is a hard-drinking newspaper reporter—not as important a position as it sounds as she works for a small town paper. Most what she does is cover the easy stuff, and fight off the men.

When Ellie receives word her father, a prominent Columbia University professor who lives in NYC and disdains her job as distasteful, unimportant, and without intellect, has been attacked. He’s near death after being beaten almost to death in his home. Ellie journeys to New York to try and make amends, or at least to meet on common ground since the two have been estranged, only to find her father unconscious and in intensive care. All Ellie can do is sit by his side—not a prospect that gets anyone anywhere, especially since the police are putting the attack down as a robbery gone wrong.

Ellie believes there’s more to her father’s near death than first appears, and when another attempt is made on his life in the hospital, she’s sure of it. Then another professor is the victim of a murder set up to look like an accident. From then on, despite opposition not only from others on the University staff, but also the police department, Ellie investigates. No one is safe from her probing,which doesn’t necessarily go over very well.

The Styx & Stone plot is good and moves right along. The writing is also good, and the setting, I’m sure, is probably spot on. The 1960s? Well, it’s not my 1960s, but I won’t argue with it being Ellie’s.

I didn’t always find the characters sympathetic, including Ellie herself. I did, however, always find her interesting, with a terrific backstory. The professors, individually and as a group, were more concerned with covering their own behinds than with uncovering who among them might be a murderer. A couple lesser characters charmed me more, including the sometimes ineffectual Detective-Sergeant McKeever, and the holocaust survivor, Gualtieri (Charon/Karen) Bruchner.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.