A Callie Anson Mystery #4
Poisoned Pen Press, April 2015
More than one mystery intersect in another adventure from Kate Charles. She’s an experienced expat author living in England exploring the mysteries of faith, love, family and violence in her books. In this fourth Callie Anson novel, it is her circle of acquaintances who are involved in a variety of actions and decisions, old and new, that drive the story and its sometimes complicated relationships.
Callie travels from London to Cambridge to attend a reunion of her classmates, graduates from theological seminary. She will have to confront both the scenes and at least one man with whom she was deeply emotionally involved during her time there: a man who unceremoniously dumped her in a shameful and hurtful way. Around her are arrayed classmates and older theologians who help Callie’s travel to emotional understanding. Meanwhile, the new love of her life, a London policeman who functions as a Family Liaison officer, becomes involved in the murder of a young man in Paddington Square. As intriguing as the convoluted relationships among the religious that are examined in this story are, the murder of a school boy with only a single tenuous link to the other plot, leads to examinations of working and absent parents, stresses in modern society and pressures of various kinds on law enforcement. Together, the development of these separate plot lines present a realistic picture of modern life.
These ideas and more are nicely embodied in the characters brought to the page by the author. The messages are many, perhaps too many, but the author’s delicate touch leaves them to the reader to accept or pass over. None is presented in such a way that one feels manipulated or into forced acceptance.
Charles nicely places the action in several consummately English locations. No generics here. She’s been called a most English of writers and compared favorably to Agatha Christie in these aspects. All in all an excellent, calm and deliberate story that can leave a reader with considerable food for thought.
Grey Swan Press, July 2014
One wonders about the author’s motivation for writing this novel. There are no good, as in morally acceptable, attorneys in this novel. None. Even the protagonist, a naïve almost simple-minded Marc Wilson, seduced in a nanosecond into a morally bankrupt underworld by the lure of big money, seems at crucial times unknowing and morally bankrupt..
Of course, the story is total fantasy, right? The product of a clever talented writer, right? There is absolutely no truth to the story, right? Total corruption of the New York City legal system. And not just the criminal courts. Oh, no, the entire legal system, if this novel is at all believable, or believed, is under the thrall of the most evil, most corrupt, devil worshipers ever invented. Male dominated of course.
Satan is one powerful angel, fallen or not, depending on your faith. The story concerns murder, rape, pollution, international politics, and always the attendants to the dark lord are the most corrupt attorneys and judges. The novel follows poor Marc Wilson through a labyrinthine journey of discovery, not just of former friends and colleagues, but of members of his own family. Satanists all.
Will he work things out and stay alive long enough to even put a dent in the tightly woven net that seems to control all of the city, and will his family forgive him if he does?
The novel has some interesting ideas and a complex plot. In style, however, it begins to erode at the edges. There is a distinct lack of emotional pull in the writing and the plot lines are just not sufficient enough to overcome dreary characterizations and lack of drive, even in the orgy scenes. In the end, the novel reads more like the kind of investigative report a researcher might produce: pedestrian and emotionless language about explosive, alarming and all-pervasive corruption.