Due for Discard
An Aimee Machado Mystery #1
Sharon St. George
Camel Press, March 2015
Author Sharon St. George is a good writer but she writes long and wordy. The novel has an interesting premise because the protagonist, Aimee Machado, has a relatively rare but useful degree in forensic librarian-ship. She works in the northern California town of Timbergate, her first job out of graduate school. Her job is to create a forensic research library for the hospital she works at. It is the hope of her mentor and the principal funder of the project that various area law enforcement agencies will use the developing library as a research resource.
It is clear from the beginning, in which readers get a sense of trouble, that the director of the project is largely absent because he has to deal with police in the matter of his wife being found murdered. So, Aimee is left to her own devices which includes nosing into the relationships and back stories of several characters, some of whom readers of crime fiction will instantly recognize.
The story moves at a leisurely pace, punctuated in the early going by Aimee’s occasional explosions of ire at her uncooperative brother who lives in the same town and knew the deceased woman. Various characters some with ulterior motives, others like the gossipy volunteer library worker, move through the story, sometimes contributing little to the plot. Most of the characters are logically drawn if not particularly inspiring. But more and more as the plot deepens, we learn of multiple connections, motives and desires until plot threads inspire visions of a plate of spaghetti.
This novel is coherent, logical, well-put together and fulfills any reader’s expectation of a cozy-type mystery. It has a rousing climax with a satisfactory conclusion and I expect this author will enjoy success with a series of additional stories featuring Aimee Machado. I hope, in the process, she examines her sense of pace and quantity.
A Chorus of Innocents
A Sir Robert Carey Mystery #7
Poisoned Pen Press, August 2015
This reviewer is not a big fan of historical crime novels. There are, however, a few authors working in the genre who have deep understanding of the requirements of the genre, and who honor the strictures of whatever time period they choose to write about. That always includes being keenly aware of the technical, scientific and cultural circumstances and limitations of the period. This author is one such.
This novel, one of a series, involves the death of a churchman—a minister of the “new” meaning protestant—religion. It is a fine example of all of the above plus this is a cracking good story. When the churchman, Jamie Burn, is murdered and his wife, Poppy, raped, these events in the far north country along the English-Scottish border in 1592, set in motion turbulence that will disturb the court of Elizabeth I. Sir Robert Carey, a powerful courtier, is ranging across the border region, trying to maintain order and keep away from the married woman he desperately loves.
The novel is really the story of a woman, the Lady Elizabeth Widdrington, who takes on herself responsibility for pursuing and identifying the men who killed Poppy’s husband and raped her. This in spite of her awareness that her abusive husband will object to her activities. Lady Widdrington is a marvelous character, carefully developed, fully formed, emotionally consistent, who through adroit force of will and a keen sense of propriety, is able to manipulate and bend to her will, a number of the rude and brawling men who populate her world.
Chisholm’s style is tight, forward pressing, and she tries successfully to use the language of the time. That can be difficult at times. One of the “rules” of crime novel writing is to limit the number of characters in order, presumably, to make things comfortable for readers. Well, perhaps with her tongue firmly planted in cheek, this author has given readers three pages of characters and included as well some horses and dogs that played roles in the story.
I recommend the series, the writing is strong and excellent, the characters are compelling and interesting and the plot of this novel is thoughtfully and properly conceived and resolved.