Book Review: The Old Deep and Dark by Ellen Hart

The Old Deep and DarkThe Old Deep and Dark
A Jane Lawless Mystery #22
Ellen Hart
Minotaur Books, October 2014
ISBN: 978125004769

You know you are in the grasp of a master story-teller when the ground becomes unstable underfoot in the first four pages. Given her longevity and varied output in the crime fiction genre, it is not surprising. Nor is it unusual that you have to read the entire novel to learn the neat resolution of that first chapter.

By turns clever, thoughtful, gut-wrenching and uplifting, this novel is very contemporary in its themes. The author’s long-time protagonist, Jane Lawless, now a licensed private investigator in Minneapolis, in addition to carefully overseeing the operation of her restaurant, faces complications at every hand, some of which are reflected in her sexual orientation. Yes, there are more and deeper examinations of gay and lesbian themes in this than readers will have encountered in earlier Lawless adventures. However, as always, Hart is tasteful and circumspect in her writing.

Long-time buddy, the ever flamboyant Cordelia Thorn has purchased and is restoring an ancient, historic theater building in downtown Minneapolis. As is the case with many buildings that suffer several alterations, there are oddities in this building, as well as several tales relating to more turbulent and law-skirting times. Seeking to create yet another restoration of the old building leads Cordelia and Jane down dusty narrow stairways and through ancient locked doors.

What crimes lie beyond those doors relate in surprising ways to a current case of murder that involves Jane and her father, Criminal Defense Attorney, Raymond Lawless, together with the family of a nationally known Country-Western singer and his inner circle and family.

With prudent care and thoughtful reveals, Hart entices readers to keep reading and turning pages. Her ability to parcel out important facts, bit by bit, is of a high order. The entire story is brought together in a complete and eminently satisfactory manner after Jane and Cordelia sort out several mis-directions. A most enjoyable experience.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2015.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.