SCORPIO RISING, by Alan Annand, Sextile.com
358 pages, paper $11.99 (available at Amazon.com or Createspace.com). Digital versions for all ereaders available ($2.99) through Smashwords.com.
Independent investigator Axel Crowe has promised to look into the murder of a friend’s sister, who was found dead under odd circumstances on a New York street. Having been allowed access to the detectives assigned to the case, he asks first for the basic details of the murder: where it happened, approximate time of death, and so forth. As the cops give him the requested information, he is thumbing his smart phone, glancing at it from time to time, not the kind of gesture that gets much attention from anyone these days of course. What he is doing, though, is having an astrology app do the chart, and a Vedic chart at that, for the date, time, and place of the murder. He glances down at it and thinks to himself:
With Scorpio rising, a fixed sign suggested murder connected with a family member. The seventh house was Taurus, a female sign, and its ruler was Venus, a female planet. Together, they indicated a female killer. Venus in dual sign Pisces implied more than one person involved. An exalted Venus, in planetary war with Mars, described an aggressive professional who was into sports or martial arts…
And neatly with a few strokes of a thumb and a not insubstantial fund of knowledge gained from his former guru, Crowe has outlined the clues that begin to lead him to the murder. Earlier in the book Crowe’s guru had cut him loose as someone too much taken with his vices (relationships, drinking, and gambling) to give proper attention to spiritual tasks.
That kind of character work I found refreshing almost from the start of Scorpio Rising, as over the years I’ve read probably most of the small number of works of astrological fiction published, and a major fault in most (with the exception of Barbara Shafferman’s Addie Price in The President’s Astrologer, published in 1998) is that the main character tends to be a type, not a person. One can’t imagine them falling in love, having any bad habits (if they have habits at all), and certainly one can’t conceive of them ever making a mistake. Crowe is good at what he does, but he is not perfect, and he is good at being human, though again not perfect.
Though I’ve started this review with a quote that is firmly astrological, protagonist Crowe is also a palmist and uses other intuitive and symbolic techniques such as vastu shastra (similar to feng shui, though there is only a partial overlap between the two). Mostly though, he is a smart, observant detective who knows how to put together little bits and pieces of clues to make the big picture that leads him to the culprits. While there is no doubt that astrology, supported by these other techniques, is a central player in the untangling of the mystery, that app on Crowe’s smart phone is introduced only where it makes a difference and this is done in such a way that the reader isn’t required to know much, if anything, about the subject.
The story revolves around three murders that occur on the same day in geographical locations far removed from each other, and though from very early in the book we have an idea of who the culprits are (by nature if not by name), just how the murders might be linked, and how that could relate to the motives is always just a chapter or two ahead of the reader. I happen to gravitate toward mysteries in my off-hours reading (and more so since the advent of the Nook and library e-loans), and they tend to fall into two categories: those you read to the end in order to find out what happened, and those you read (sometimes grudgingly) to the end to confirm what you already know.
The first category is the best of course, and Scorpio Rising falls firmly into that class. Around page 150, though I was enjoying the read, I was quite sure that I had figured out most of the key elements of the mystery, but two chapters later I had to stop patting myself on the back when a couple of additional details told me that I had totally misjudged two of the characters, derailing most if not all of my detective work. And so it went, all the way to the end.
What it comes down to is that Scorpio Rising is an engaging mystery with twists and turns that keep you reading all the way to the last page of the last chapter. Axel Crowe is a new kind of character on the mystery scene, who is a quick study when presented with a baffling murder in part because he combines his own mix of intuitive methods with a thorough understanding of methods used by police and crime labs the world over. Though his intuitive insight may give him an edge and put him a level or two above the more tedious tasks of police work, Crowe is not some shiny mystical figure travelling on a higher plane, but rather someone who deals every day with the limitations of his own imperfections.
A good mystery all the way around!
~ Kenneth Irving, editor, Horoscope Guide
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- Paperback & Kindle : www.amazon.com/Scorpio-Rising-ebook/dp/B0050IOY6I
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