This book review, written by Chris Lorenz, appears in the April 2015 issue of Dell Horoscope.
A freelance reporter for The Village Voice gets into trouble when he follows an ex-CIA agent to a spiritual retreat in Vermont. One afternoon he confronts the former agent, accusing him of smuggling stolen foreign antiquities. That night, the reporter is murdered. The ashram manager is accused of the crime but fortunately his friend, astrologer Axel Crowe, believes in his innocence and sets out to find the real culprit.
The drama thus unfolds in Felonious Monk, the second of Alan Annand’s “New Age Noir” series. Annand’s hero is not only adept at astrology, but also understands how to use synchronicity to his advantage. He can read palms from a distance and, as a former student of “Guruji”, his thoughts and actions are guided by ancient wisdom. Guruji has also taught him some martial arts, which Crowe has several occasions to use over the course of the story. But this New Age hero also has modern tools to assist him. Want to know who killed the reporter? There’s an app for that.
At 6:05 AM, Crowe opens the astrology app on his cell phone and asks the question, “Whodunnit?” Now for those who enjoy some good crime fiction, Felonious Monk fits the bill. The book is written almost entirely from the sleuth’s point of view as he works day and night in the shadowy underworld, fighting off surprise attacks and uncovering key clues, much like Sam Spade or Mike Hammer. And for the reader who appreciates a touch of mysticism, Felonious Monk also satisfies, especially with the attention given to Eastern religion, the good and bad karma, and the periodic sage quotes from Guruji.
Those with various astrology backgrounds may be stumped by the kind of astrology used in Felonious Monk. Crowe uses the Vedic horoscope, which does not include the outer planets Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, yet he also frequently uses horary principles. This detective arrives at magical deductions from the horary question, “Whodunnit?” but then horary astrology does seem quite magical in the hands of an experienced practitioner.
We’re introduced to Crowe’s apparent superpowers in chapter two. He’s giving a lecture on the ancient roots of astrology in India. During the Q&A session a skeptical professor asks, “Can you tell me how many kids I have?” After some snappy exchanges about the merits of the question, Crowe finally states, “You have three children. Boy-girl-boy in that order.” Astonishingly, he’s correct, and the professor shamefully exits. Afterwards, we find out the secret of how Crowe knew the answer. Three questions were asked before the professor’s question, and they were asked by a man, a woman, and another man. The New Age detective connected the dots between the previous three questions and the professor’s children.
Does that actually work in the real world? The narrative is filled with the protagonist’s internal dialogue reminding readers that everything is connected to everything else. His classic film-noir antagonism with the police is partially shaped by his astrological portrait of the killer, since he can’t tell the police his knowledge is based on a horary question. In the end, he defeats the killer and locates the missing Buddha statue with another horary question. This is not a spoiler, since we know the killer’s bad karma will eventually catch up with him.
It’s the journey through the pages of this book that is the most rewarding, enjoyable, and sometimes frightening. Crowe’s search takes him to Thailand, where he meets several fascinating characters. We see the culture’s poverty and how it makes some of its people immoral and treacherous. And we see the spiritual side of Thailand, its ancient temples and spiritual vistas. Crowe gets little sleep during his jaunts, but he apparently regenerates himself through yoga and meditation. Are Crowe’s amazing abilities unique to him, or are they available to anyone who has the right teacher and a good understanding of astrology? Let me know when you find out.
Alan Annand is a Canadian astrologer and palmist with an education spanning both eastern and western astrology. He has diplomas from the American College of Vedic Astrology, as well as the British Faculty of Astrological Studies for whom he was their North American correspondence tutor for several years.
He is also a writer of crime fiction, including his NEW AGE NOIR series (Scorpio Rising, Felonious Monk, Soma County) featuring astrologer and palmist Axel Crowe, whom one reviewer has dubbed “Sherlock Holmes with a horoscope.”
Read the highlighted reviews of Scorpio Rising on Pinterest.