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Book review: <i>The Violet Crow</i> by Michael Sheldon

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the cover of the book

The body of a little girl turns up in a Quaker meeting house in South Jersey. Nobody claims her. The media runs wild. Who can Chief Black turn to to help bring this crime to justice, and a speedy resolution for all?

The story

After the body of Ginny Doe is discovered by little Mimi McRae in the Quaker meeting house, Mayor Dove needs this murder solved, and quick. He tells Chief Black that what's really missing from the police force is a bit of diversity, and for diversity's sake he should hire a psychic detective to work with the police to help clear up what seems completely unresolvable. Chief Black reluctantly agrees to this ridiculous suggestion, and brings Bruno X to Gardenfield.

Bruno X is a well-dressed middle aged man with a penchant for overdone Jewish expressions and flamboyance. Using Kabbalah for Dummies and a host of tricks only he seems to be able to get away with, Bruno follows the Chief around the murder investigation thus far, but seems to be having trouble getting a read. Meanwhile, a local university student Allison and her speedfreak boyfriend Icky are trying to get the attention of the media. They know a little more about what's happened than the Chief, but neither trust the police for their own reasons and need to keep themselves under the radar. The missing link seems to be Newgarden Biosciences, the biotech company started up by a local Quaker. Some people think they should be investigated in connection with the murder, but Bruno and Chief Black can't seem to make it add up.

Peaches the journalist seems determined to let the killer know every move the police are about to make, and the bodies start piling up. The Chief is at his wits end, but Bruno knows he's getting closer when the attacks become personal. Can the Chief and Bruno get this mystery solved before somebody – maybe even Bruno himself – ends up dead?

The style

I didn't know anything about The Violet Crow before I started reading it, so I didn't realise what I was reading was a fairly tongue in cheek thriller-slash-comedy. By the time I was about twenty pages in I was thinking yikes, this is a bit over the top and by the time I was forty pages in I was thinking yes, this is hilarious and I am enjoying it immensely. Chief Black is the straight man, everyone else is a caricature in the best possible way. The story line is good, solid material – because the point of view shifts between each of the main characters, there's a level of confusion while the reader sorts out the fluctuations between what everybody wants and everybody knows and what each of the characters is willing to give the reader. The reader works out the mystery along with Bruno, who can conveniently give us psychic hints that both he and we need to interpret. The result is a fun read that resolves in a manner that makes satisfactory sense and gives us a bit of a laugh during the process.

The characters are all great. I hated Bruno for a couple of seconds and then he charmed me, affectations and all. Allison and Icky have just the right vulnerabilities and honesty, and the Quakers' way of being is well conveyed. There are a couple of other standouts – I hated Peaches, but I was supposed to – and Rhonda, the receptionist at the biotech company, had an outstandingly written Jersey accent. I don't usually like written accents, but this one I'll take. Throughout it all, Chief Black anchored the plot and provided humorous observation. As a rollicking mystery with a fun to read plot and hilarious characters, It captured my imagination and I read it in no time at all.

Who is this book for?

Want a light laugh with your mystery? Here. Thank me later.

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Somewhat reminiscent in humour style of both John Vorhaus's fiction and Scott Fivelson's Tuxes.


In short

Title: The Violet Crow
Author: Michael Sheldon
Publisher: Liberty Island Media
ISBN: 978-1504014113
Year published: 2015
Pages: 312
Genre(s): Thriller
Review Type: