Never Look Down
A Cal Claxton Mystery #3
Warren C. Easley
Poisoned Pen Press, September 2015
Cal Claxton is a liberal-minded lawyer practicing in a small town outside of Portland, Oregon. His practice and his interests bifurcate his activities and he spends a good deal of time bouncing back and forth between the two locations. He’s also a dog owner. Caxton, who propels this series of legal mysteries, is a former Los Angeles prosecutor who has moved over to the defense realm, although he doesn’t spend much time in court.
This story penetrates one of the highlights of cities like Portland, which attracts a vibrant subculture, in this case, the often homeless artful youth who find their kicks as taggers, writers, graffiti artists and other scribblers. Like all cultures, there are subcultures, one of which is usually called climbers. They are the daredevils who place their often elaborate art high on buildings in places which seem impossible to reach. One such who calls herself K209 is gaining notice for the quality and her risky locations.
One dark night from four stories up, she observes the murder of a woman. K209 escapes and the hunt is on. The killers and the cops seek to capture the elusive youngster and we reads many chapters in her anguished clever head.
As Cal Claxton is drawn into the case, the author uses his ongoing character to consider some aspects of the gun culture in our society. The characters and the novel are nuanced, balanced and worth every bit of their space. Portland is nicely evoked, the writing is strong and the plot develops higher and higher tension as it progresses.
If the story line is flawed at all, it is due to the frequency of Claxton’s travel between the town of Dundee where he is trying to expand his small practice and his office in Portland where similar efforts command his attention.
It is a minor flaw. I recommend this novel as an enjoyable and thoughtful experience, whatever your personal attitudes are toward gun control.
What Waits in the Woods
Point, April 2015
On the very first page of this YA suspense novel, the terror begins. This first unseen threat is scared away, but it’s only the beginning of many frightening episodes Callie must suffer during her camping trip into the woods of upstate New York. She doesn’t want to be there. Camping and hiking are not her things. She’s more interested in reading great books and writing stories. But Callie is new to her small community and goes along to bond with her two new BFF’s. Besides, her boyfriend will be part of the group, and it will only last for four nights.
From the start, though, strange events make the outing more than just the endurance of a few days spent with bugs, brambles, and sleeping three girls to a tent. The alpha female taunts the others, they lose their way, unexplained figures appear and disappear, a beheaded doll is found fireside, and a charismatic young man shows up and volunteers to help. Will that flirty, macho individual help them survive, or is he going to kill them all with the woodsman’s weapons he carries? Tensions common to teenagers complicate the dynamics further, and everyone in the group becomes a suspect.
I would rate this PG-13 for the violence and five stars for the page-turning thrill and the emotional and rational growth of the teenaged protagonist.
Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, October 2015.
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections and Furtive Investigation, the first two Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.