Book Review: Road to Nowhere by Cy Wyss @CyWyss @partnersincr1me

Road To Nowhere by Cy Wyss Banner

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Road To Nowhere

by Cy Wyss

on Tour September 1-30, 2019

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Road To Nowhere by Cy Wyss

Synopsis:

PJ Taylor, the feline shapeshifter, is back! Someone is kidnapping people’s pet cats and holding them for ransom. When PJ’s beloved niece is catnapped, the trail leads PJ to Nowhere, a tiny hamlet north of her hometown of Mayhap. What intrigues will PJ find among the inhabitants of this minuscule community? You can bet it involves at least one person up to no good and flushing this person out could be…murder!

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Mystery Published by: Nighttime Dog Press, LLC Publication Date: September 1, 2019 Number of Pages: 222 ASIN: B07WCHL75J Series: Eyeshine, 2 Purchase Links: Amazon, Goodreads

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My Review

For anyone who has read the first book, Eyeshine, fair warning—this volume opens with a major, and appalling, development. About that I’ll say no more.

Road to Nowhere brings us up to date with PJ Taylor’s story, that of a photojournalist who morphs into a cat every night and has figured out how to use that advantageously in her work. This time, prompted by her best friend Clara’s loss, she’s looking into a spate of kitty kidnappings. Quite naturally, the police haven’t been overly interested in these particular crimes but PJ is willing to stake out the ransom drop in hopes of identifying the bad guy(s).

As it turns out, much more is involved here than mere greed and PJ gets a lot of help from Robert and Nanci, her brother and niece, as well as local cop, Jake, and an enigmatic newcomer, Blake. Besides the catnappings, the author touches on the difficulties faced by those who question their sexual identity and takes us to some dark moments while still maintaining the somewhat lighthearted core story. Kudos to the author for offering a nice blend of grit and fun.

Occasional editing errors were not very distracting but I do have to express my disappointment that this is exclusive to Amazon, unlike the first book. I wish that a broader audience could enjoy PJ and her story 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, September 2019.

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Read an excerpt:

Robert Taylor entered the brownstone via the back door, closing it quietly behind himself. He was in a landing of pale green and gray with tan carpet and stairs leading upward and a sandwich board on the wall with office numbers. The woman he was looking for was in 303, two stories above him. He ascended the two flights, his heart leaden with reluctance. He considered himself a unicorn – someone special and rare. Not only was he smart and successful (head of his own one-man FBI office in Mayhap, Indiana), the women in his family had the unusual proclivity to turn into cats when the sun set. This made them particularly effective operatives, although in fearing for their safety he often restricted their usefulness. His sister, PJ, had been his most important informant up until her recent death. He couldn’t believe she was gone. It didn’t seem real. Didn’t cats have nine lives? He somehow expected PJ to rise from her grave and come back to him. Instead, here he was, about to attempt to convince a psychotherapist of his sanity in the face of his recent tragedies. All he wanted was to get back to work. They wouldn’t let him back without the sign-off from this woman, Ms. Julia Herzenberg. Her name conjured images of some ancient Freudian presence, maybe someone who looked like Dear Abby or Ruth Bader-Ginsberg, with copious wrinkles and a severe bun. He shivered at the idea of exposing his inner life to this person. On the third floor, the stairwell opened into a larger space of muted pastels that smelled of rose and mint. Three doors greeted him, and he pushed through the one whose frosted glass proclaimed it 303. Inside, soft new age music played, and the floral scent was stronger. The culprit was an incense burner on a small table near the door. Thin smoke wafted from a glazed, bulbous pot in gray ombre. The walls of the suite were a soothing blue and the furniture worn leather in earthy browns. Striped pillows and throw blankets abounded, and health magazines lined the coffee table. Robert perched on the edge of a fat armchair and crossed his legs, interlacing his fingers around his knee. He waited, with the demeanor of a man about to face something dire and unwanted. His first impression of Julia Herzenberg when she opened the inner door was that she looked nothing like an old psychiatrist or supreme court judge. Her hair flowed around her head in generous curls, spilling from her shoulders in waves of auburn silk. Her eyes were a crystalline green the likes of which he had only seen previously on actresses or fashion models. She was tall and thin, with slender, manicured fingers and long legs beneath a plaid wool skirt. She reminded him of a willow – inscrutable and eternal, with Nature’s grace and strength. “Robert Taylor?” she asked. It took him a moment to shut his flapping mouth and recover his aplomb. “Yes,” he finally said, extending his hand. She shook it firmly, her hand warm and dry. She led him into a brown hallway, and to an office at one end. The room contained the same homey furniture as the waiting area, in neutral shades of soft leather with woven and plush accompaniments. “Have a seat,” she said. He stared at the wide couch before him. “Do I need to lie down?” he asked. “Only if you want to,” she said. She sat in an armchair across from the couch with her knees pressed together and her hands folded in her lap. She studied him, an entirely unassuming expression on her porcelain face. Awkwardly, he perched on the edge of the couch and rested his weight on his elbows on his thighs. He let his hands dangle. She remained still and silent as he took in his surroundings. The paintings on the walls were interesting but not distracting and consisted of abstractions that reminded him of natural surroundings. The lights were incandescent, and the shades partially drawn, rendering the space as comforting as a forest nook where sunlight filtered through the branches above. Dr. Herzenberg even had a small fountain on one side table and the faint sound of running water complemented the illusion. Robert could feel his tension recede, despite his natural wariness and dark mood. Still, she said nothing. Robert felt her watching him and found he couldn’t meet her gaze directly. Rather, his eyes roved over their environment, never settling for more than a few seconds. Behind and beside her was a narrow bookcase with glass panels and something about it bothered him. He kept returning to it, until he realized why. On the very top of the bookcase was an old-fashioned globe and a statue that looked like a very realistic black cat. It could have been PJ. He stared at the cat, and almost jumped out of his seat when the statue blinked. “God, that’s a cat!” he said. Dr. Herzenberg smiled. “That’s Bella.” “Wow,” Robert said. “I thought she was a statue.” “She likes to sit up there,” Dr. Herzenberg said. “Many of my patients don’t ever notice her.” “I’m amazed. You bring your cat with you to the office?” Dr. Herzenberg shrugged. “She doesn’t like to be alone.” “You could get her a companion.” “She doesn’t like other cats.” Robert chuckled. “Typical difficult feline.” “Tell me,” Dr. Herzenberg said. “Are you a cat person?” He remembered his sister, and the fact he’d never see her again. His eyes burned, though he willed himself not to tear up. “You could say that,” he said. PJ had turned into a cat every night since shortly after she had hit puberty. He still remembered the first time she’d shapeshifted. He was a rookie cop at the time and looking after her since their parents had died, as her much older brother and legal guardian. They’d been playing video games on the couch when she howled and writhed in pain. He had thought she was dying and called 911. Imagine his chagrin when they arrived and found no sign of the girl that he’d insisted needed an ambulance. Instead, a black tabby cat watched him explain that he’d had a nightmare and called emergency services by mistake. His colleagues ribbed him for weeks afterward. Robert was so traumatized, he confined PJ to her room after sundown from that time forward, and he somehow managed to convince himself her transition hadn’t happened. It was only recently, with his own daughter, Nancy, entering puberty, that he’d finally opened up to PJ about her wonderous ability. He had been terrified that Nancy would become a shapeshifter as well. Be the status of that as it may, at least one outcome had been that he had become significantly closer to PJ, a relationship long overdue. His memories of PJ ran through his mind, and guilt stabbed his heart. If only he hadn’t been so pigheaded, he could have showed his love for her sooner. He could have had years of closeness instead of mere months. They could even, perhaps, have– No. He wouldn’t let himself think about that. Regret was a demon that ate you alive. It was what it was. He couldn’t change the past any more than he could draw castles in the sky. “What are you thinking about?” Dr. Herzenberg asked. Robert blinked several times, his reverie broken. “Nothing,” he said. She stared at him. His gaze dropped to the coffee table between them. “I was thinking of my sister,” he said. “Tell me about her.” Robert took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He crossed his arms over his chest and studied the carpet under their feet, a confetti-patterned collage of woodland hues. He found himself telling Dr. Herzenberg the truth – something he hadn’t done in decades. “She’s not actually my sister,” he said. “Oh?” She raised a delicate eyebrow. “Well, she wasn’t, I mean,” he said. “My father was her mother’s cousin.” Dr. Herzenberg appeared lost in thought for a moment. “So, your ‘sister’ was actually your second cousin?” “Yes,” Robert said. “Why do you call her your sister?” “Our parents married,” Robert said. “Legally, PJ was my sister.” “I see,” she said. Another wave of regret washed over Robert. He clasped his hands together and hung his head so she wouldn’t see the sheen of tears in his eyes. “I did read your employment record,” Dr. Herzenberg said. “You’ve had quite the last couple of weeks.” Robert snorted. “Yeah. You could say that.” “You failed the bureau’s lie detector test, separated from your wife, shot and killed a man, and your sister – your second-cousin, I mean – died. I’d say all of that qualifies you for a little paid leave.” Then there was the business with his daughter, which he couldn’t talk about, as well as the thing concerning his infidelity, which he likewise couldn’t bring himself to talk about. His shoulders drooped. “I don’t want paid leave,” he said. “I want to get back to work. All I do is sit around and mope. If I can work, I’ll feel better.” He looked up, into her concerned face. “What can I do to convince you I’m fit for returning to work – that, in fact, it’ll help me recover?” She tilted her head and scrutinized him. He fidgeted under the weight of those amazing green eyes. “You can’t run from your grief, Robert. Turning your attention elsewhere will only cause it to fester and grow into something uncontrolled.” He sighed. “I was afraid you’d say that.” On top of the bookcase, the cat stood and stretched elegantly, her back a deeply curved S. She sat on her haunches and used her paw to clean her snout. Robert watched, fascinated. “Tell me more about your sister,” Dr. Herzenberg said. Another wave of regret reminded Robert of his failures, and, with it, a twinge of fear piqued his soul. He’d already said too much. “You were close, I take it,” the psychiatrist said. “Yeah,” Robert said. Dr. Herzenberg waited. Robert looked around the room again, his gaze settling on the quarter-height of window, through which a gray fall sky was visible. “What bothers you most about her death?” she asked. Robert’s eyes lost their focus as his attention turned inward. Guilt weighed heavy in his heart as he remembered the past two weeks and his role in the whole mess. “I never…” He couldn’t bring himself to say it. Dr. Herzenberg perked up. “You never what?” He stared at the cat, who stared back unblinkingly. The odd sense of unreality overtook him again and he found himself speaking the truth once more. “I never told her how much I loved her,” he said. “I’m sure she knew,” Dr. Herzenberg said. Robert shook his head. “No. She didn’t.” “What makes you think that?” “I pushed her away. She wanted more from me. I should have given it to her.” Dr. Herzenberg’s brow furrowed and her eyes darkened. “What are we talking about, Robert? You’ve told me she wasn’t your blood sister. How did you see her? As your little sister? Or, as something more than that?” Robert ground his teeth. How did they get onto this topic? He was here to get back to work, not to get himself fired for inappropriate feelings toward PJ. “I shouldn’t have said it that way,” he said. “Of course, I meant it platonically.” She studied him. “You know that everything you tell me is confidential.” He frowned. “I know you have to report what I say to my superiors,” he said. “No,” she said. “I have to report my overall opinions. Your disclosures are entirely between us alone.” Robert stared up at Bella, whose golden gaze had never seemed to leave him. He was pretty sure the cat saw right through him, and he wondered how much of that ability Dr. Herzenberg had. He said nothing. *** Excerpt from Road To Nowhere by Cy Wyss. Copyright 2019 by Cy Wyss. Reproduced with permission from Cy Wyss. All rights reserved.    

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Author Bio:

Cy Wyss Cy Wyss is a writer based in Indianapolis, Indiana. They have a Ph.D. in computer science and their day job involves wrangling and analyzing genetic data. Cy is the author of three full-length novels as well as a collection of short stories and the owner and chief editor of Nighttime Dog Press, LLC.

Before studying computer science, Cy obtained their undergraduate degree in mathematics and English literature as well as masters-level degrees in philosophy and artificial intelligence. They studied overseas for three years in the UK, although they never managed to develop a British accent.

Cy currently resides in Indianapolis with their spouse, daughter, and two obstreperous but lovable felines. In addition to writing, they enjoy reading, cooking, and walking 5k races to benefit charity.

Catch Up With Cy Wyss On:
cywyss.com, Goodreads, BookBub, Twitter, & Facebook!

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Book Review: A Stone’s Throw by James W. Ziskin

A Stone’s Throw
An Ellie Stone Mystery #6
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books, June  2018
ISBN 978-1-63388-419-9
Trade Paperback

A Stone’s Throw strikes me, for some reason, as more indicative of the 1940s or 50s than of the 60s. Lordy, Lordy, didn’t people just smoke, then? Or at least the characters in this book do. But that’s only a small, amusing detail in a book with a heroine as downright cool as Ellie Stone.

A Jewish “girl reporter” –yes, I’m reminded of Lois Lane–who is determined to make it in a man’s world, Ellie is Johnny-on-the-spot when a fire destroys a rundown barn on an abandoned property. The property used to be the center of a horsebreeding operation, until a long ago fire put an end to it. Owned by the wealthy, and politically important Shaw family, the barn is deemed to be no particular loss until Ellie walks through and discovers two bodies, both burned beyond recognition, in the ashes. Who are they? Ellie is determined to find out.

Even then the sheriff isn’t terribly concerned, and it isn’t until Ellie starts investigating that secrets are revealed which will involve many in the horse racing community of Saratoga Springs, New York. Owners, trainers, jockeys, and bookmakers all have something to hide, and it will take Ellie and a cadre of quirky friends to discover the truth.

The writing is good, the dialogue snappy, the setting appropriate. Most of all, the subject of horse racing, which is dear to my heart, a hoot to visit. I’m worried about Ellie, though. Her lovelife is a bust and I’m afraid she may have a drinking problem, although a full bottle of Dewars proves a godsend. A fun read.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, August 2018.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder, Four Furlongs and Hometown Homicide.

Book Review: Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley

Down the River Unto the Sea
Walter Mosley
Mulholland Books, February 2018
ISBN: 978-0-316-50964-0
Hardcover

From the publisher:  Joe King Oliver was one of the NYPD’s finest investigators until, dispatched to arrest a well-heeled car thief, he was framed for assault by his enemies within the force, a charge that landed him at Rikers.  A decade later, King is a private detective, running his agency with the help of his teenage daughter.  Broken by the brutality he suffered and committed in equal measure behind bars, King leads a solitary life, his work and his daughter the only lights.   When King receives a letter from a woman who admits she was paid to frame him years ago, he decides to take his own case: finding out who on the force wanted him disposed of – – and why.  As King embarks on his quest for the justice he was denied, he agrees to help a radical black journalist accused of killing two on-duty officers who had been abusing their badges to traffic in drugs and prostitutes in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.  The two cases intertwine across the years, exposing a pattern of corruption and brutality wielded against the black men, women and children whose lives the law destroyed. To solve them, King must outrun dirty cops, outsmart craven lawyers, and above all protect his daughter from the underworld in which he works.  All the while, two lives hang in the balance: King’s client’s and his own.

 

Our protagonist’s memories of his early/earlier years are mostly painful:  “the apartment building where I lived with my mother, brother, and sister after our father was sentenced and before I was old enough to run away.”  More recently, the memories are of his days incarcerated in Rikers:  “I’d been at Rikers for only thirtynine hours and already four convicts had attacked me. There was a white adhesive bandage holding together the open flesh on my right cheek.” He thinks:  “Just a few days and I’d switched allegiances from cop to criminal.  I thought that was the worst thing . . . but I was wrong . . . It’s a terrible fall when you find yourself grateful to be put in segregation.”  When he is, unexpectedly, released after about 3 months, he is allowed to shower and shave and “I saw my face for the first time in months in the polished steel mirror next to the small shower where I cleaned up.  Shaving revealed the vicious gaping scar down the right of my face.  They didn’t always offer stitches at Rikers.”

That experience colors everything that follows in this fascinating and, at times, horrifying novel from Walter Mosley, whose writing is always riveting.  At this point in his life, the brightest and most beloved thing in Joe’s life is his 17-year-old daughter, Aja-Denise, who is equally devoted to him.  Her mother, now Joe’s ex-wife, has remarried, but Joe is closer to Aja than ever; she helps him run his detective agency, where he is determined to find out who framed him.  His daughter’s latest endeavor is to attend “a special school in this Bronx church where good science students teach at-risk kids how scientists do experiments.”  Obviously, Joe couldn’t be more proud of her.

The author’s descriptions of his supporting players are always wonderful and fully descriptive, including Joe’s elderly grandmother and her boyfriend of the day, a man worth eight hundred seventy-nine billion dollars, described as a gun enthusiast and a pacifist too.  His investigation brings him to a meeting with a man who “weighed well north of four hundred pounds.  He could have willed his face to be sewn into a basketball after he died; it was that large and round,” and describes himself as “a man who didn’t even trust his own clients, a man who had experienced betrayal on almost every level.”  When his “visage was still too cop-like,” he undertakes some small superficial changes till “the transformation was now complete.  Rather than a Cro-Magnon cop I was a Neanderthal nerd.”  I will leave it to the reader to discover all the other joys of Mr. Mosley’s writing for him/herself.  The book is everything one has learned to expect from this author, and it is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2018.

Book Review: Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin

Heart of Stone
An Ellie Stone Mystery #4
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books, June 2016
ISBN: 978-1-63388-183-9
Trade Paperback

Ellie Stone is in the Adirondacks visiting her aunt for the month of August. She is lounging on the dock while her aunt swims (nude) when the sheriff comes  and after hassling her aunt for nude swimming asks Ellie to come with him to photograph a death scene. He needs her to do this because Ellie has an expensive camera and the sheriff has no camera at all. She goes. There is a high cliff that dare devils use to dive from into the lake below. It is not the wisest sport as there is rocky ledge that juts out which divers have to miss. From the looks of things, these two did not miss the shale shelf. Ellie notices some oddities at the scene such as the way the two are dressed and the station wagon parked so close to the edge of the cliff. When the state police become involved they find even more odd things. While one of the victims is a stranger to the area, the other is a young man staying at the music camp. It seems more than a little odd that these two would be stunt diving together.

Ellie is in a good position to investigate which as a newspaper reporter she is inclined to do. Ellie has spent time in the area most of her life and knows many of the people who are staying at the nearby arts camp. She also has an uncanny ability to snoop out the truth.

This is the fourth Ellie Stone book and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand I like the mystery presented in Heart of Stone a great deal. I also enjoyed Ellie on vacation, away from her job. On the other hand, the author has a tendency to be overly wordy. In the previous books, I found that this added to the atmosphere of the book. It gave the books a feel of more substance. It seemed to me that  in this book he ramped up the wordage even more. More than once I wanted to shout, “just get on with it!”  The overuse of language was just annoying.

In spite of the language, it is still Ellie Stone who is a most likable protagonist. I would recommend the book and hope that Ziskin can curb the need to use more words when fewer will suffice.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Caryn St. Clair, March 2018.

Book Review: After the Fire by Henning Mankell

After the Fire
Henning Mankell
Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy
Vintage Books, October 31, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-5254-3508-2
Trade Paperback

Henning Mankell, who died in 2015, capped a distinguished career with this follow-up to Italian Shoes, in which Frederik Welin, a disgraced surgeon, was the principal character, as he is in After the Fire.  In  each novel, Welin looks deeply into his present as a lone resident on an island in the Swedish archipelago, living in his boyhood home built by his grandfather, as well as dredging up past memories.

The major difference between the two novels, however, is in the later book, his house burns down, apparently by arson (of which he is suspected) while he is asleep and narrowly escapes death.  Previously, Welin was content to live quietly, taking a daily dip in the sea, even if he had to cut a hole in the ice with an axe to do so.  Following the destruction of his home, things change.  When a female journalist visits to write a story about the event, it awakens sexual hope in the 70-year-old retired doctor, but to develop into only a close friendship.  At the same time,  his somewhat strained relationship with his daughter changes for the better.

In other words, the consequences of the house being reduced to ashes forces Welin to approach life differently, accepting life (and death) as it is, rather than as was his attitude toward it in the past.  His introspection leads him to develop a more practical approach to his relationships.

Mankell has here written a superlatively insightful look into a man’s mind.  While, perhaps, better known for his Kurt Wallender mysteries, Mankell has here added another well-written and -thought-out novel to a long list of other books he penned.

Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Ted Feit, October 2017.

Book Review: Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork

Disappeared
Francisco X. Stork
Arthur A. Levine Books, October 2017
ISBN 978-0-545-94447-2
Hardcover

Existence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico requires a combination of courage, vigilance and restraint.  The typical work-day commute equals exposure to potential harassment and harm.  Truly dangerous, totally unavoidable.  Students don’t have the luxury of focusing on academics or sports.  Families need financial support.

Emiliano attends his high school classes and participates on his soccer team, but he focuses on family and ‘his’ Jiparis.  Intelligent, innovative and driven, Emiliano creates a small business of collecting hand-made folk art from his pseudo-Mexican-Boy Scouts, which he sells to small shops. The Jiparis’ families receive the bulk of proceeds, of course, but Emiliano’s cut helps at home and his business has been noticed.

A journalist with El Sol, Emiliano’s sister writes a weekly column about the city’s missing girls.  Sara had shared her own story of loss, writing of the day her best friend was kidnapped.  Friends and family members of other missing girls responded to her article, and Sara was assigned a weekly column.  After reporting progress, Sara was stunned when she was ordered to drop the investigation and the article.

Emiliano becomes acquainted with several of the city’s successful businessmen and his views seem to shift.  Hard work is nothing without the willingness to get “a little dirty”.  A person can only truly move up, in this world, when illegal activity is going down.  Clearly, everyone is doing it; but it takes Emiliano time to realize how closely it is all connected.

Mr. Stork deftly displays the complexities of life in Mexico, even as he highlights the hope, strength, determination and compassion in the people that call it home.  Disappeared is a fictional story about Mexico’s missing girls, but the fact is, hundreds of Mexican women do disappear in this border city every year.

Reviewed by jv poore, September 2017.

Book Review: Cast Iron by Peter May

Cast Iron
An Enzo Macleod Investigation #6
Peter May
Quercus, October 2017
ISBN: 978-1-6814-4161-0
Hardcover

This is the sixth and final book in the Enzo Files series, and it is a worthy addition indeed.

From the publisher:  In 1989, a killer dumped the body of twenty-year-old Lucie Martin into a picturesque lake in the west of France.  Fourteen years later, during a summer heat wave, a drought exposed her remains – – bleached bones amid the scorching mud and slime.  No one was ever convicted of her murder.  But now, forensic expert Enzo Macleod is reviewing this stone-cold case – – the toughest of the seven he has been challenged to solve.  But when Enzo finds a flaw in the original evidence surrounding Lucie’s murder, he opens a Pandora’s Box that not only raises old ghosts but also endangers his entire family.  The challenge was from a Parisian journalist, Roger Raffin, who told Enzo that his skills would be insufficient to solve these very cold cases, including that of his [Raffin’s] wife.   Candor makes me admit that all of the nearly interchangeable relationships in the novel at times confused this reader, what with the various characters’ relationships with each other, both parental and marital.

Time frames range from the time of Lucie’s murder in 1989 in the book’s Prologue to the discovery of the bones of the victim in the summer of 2003 on the 1st page of Chapter 1,  to the concluding chapter in the Spring of 2012, with p.o.v. initially being that of Enzo but soon nearly alternating with that of Sophie, Enzo’s daughter, and Bertrand, her lover.  The question of the identity of Lucie’s murderer, as well as that of Pierre Lambert, a significant character in the tale, is not resolved until very nearly the end of the novel, as well as “the enigma that is Regis Blanc,” thought initially to have killed many (all?) of the many victims enumerated here. Macleod explores the possibility that Lucie was murdered by a man she met while doing social work with recently released felons, on one of whom Enzo focuses: But Enzo has so much personal baggage to wrap up – – the vindictive ex-wife, the uncertain paternities, the infidelities, his new girlfriend – – enough to negatively influence his investigation.  The frequently [and wonderfully] poetic writing, combined with the suspense wrought by the author, makes this a highly recommended read.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, October 2017.