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William Gibson’s novel, Zero History = Zero Story

19 Jan

zero historyIf either the author or his publisher had subscribed to truth in advertising, this book should have been titled Zero Story.

Once upon a time, after reading Neuromancer a couple of decades ago, I thought William Gibson was a SF genius for the brilliance with which he’d described a wired world of the future.

A couple of years ago I read Spook County and was horribly disappointed with a vaguely-futuristic novel that appeared to have no plot. Since then, Gibson has apparently been pushing the limits of his ability to anesthetize unsuspecting readers with more of the same.

In all fairness, Gibson is a fine craftsman of prose. It was pleasurable and effortless to read Zero History, at least insomuch as I could feign an interest in the latest fashions in clothing, architecture, vehicles and interior design, to which he devoted an inordinate percentage of word count in this tiresome excuse for a novel.

For the life of me, I struggle to recount what Zero History was all about. Essentially, a bunch of characterless nerds trying to determine the identity of a designer of leading edge military clothing. But if I looked for a plot, I was out of luck. I felt like I was downtown on a Saturday night, endlessly circling the block in front of a popular restaurant, looking for a parking spot that never materialized.

I was fed up with this novel in less than 40 pages. I persisted to the end (400 pp) only in the vain hope that perhaps this once-esteemed writer would show some purpose and redeem himself in the next chapter… or maybe the next… or maybe the last. Never happened.

In the acknowledgements section, Gibson went to great pains to thank his wife and daughter, editor and literary agent, and a dozen others who supposedly helped to midwife this bastard. Of those, shame on his agent and editor, who didn’t have the stones to tell him, this is an insubstantial piece of crap and you can do better.

If ever I reach this stage in my writing, I can only pray I have more honest people in my life to counsel me.

~~~

HARM’S WAY: This 99-cent book is terrible!

14 Dec

AA & halloween handsAs a writer of mystery suspense, I try to be edgy. For the most part, it’s a juggling act – being the wild man I know myself to be versus the decent guy that my editor (wife) wants me to be.

All of my books cultivate an atmosphere of moral jeopardy, sex and violence. Most of the time, despite my editor, I manage to work in enough action, intrigue, mystery and suspense to keep readers flipping the pages, looking for more jeopardy, sex and violence.

Rarely do I get the kind of off-the-scale reaction I’ve secretly being craving, like this recent review on Barnes & Noble of my mystery/thriller HARM’S WAY:

“This book is terrible! It touched on every low-life, criminal thing in the world. Lying, cheating, stealing, kidnapping, rape, torture, murder, porn, snuff films, drugs, Mafia. I probably missed some, but if it’s bad, it was covered in this book.”

Okay, you had me with low-life.

Finally, someone has seen my inner wild man and damned him with faint praise. Well, maybe not so much praise as outright condemnation. But as some Hollywood agent said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Sadly, the condemnation of HARM’S WAY isn’t universal. Other B&N reviewers haven’t been quite so astute as the one above, and have mistakenly seen this book as an exciting and page-turning romp.

Some of them said: “Get comfortable, you’ll be up all night reading. Once you start you can’t put it down. Exciting, keeps you on the edge of your seat. Fast-paced suspense, interesting, plenty of twists and turns. Highly recommended.”

To date, there’ve been 19 reviews on B&N, averaging 4.5 stars. Clearly, I’m doing something wrong here, because most people are completely missing the point – that I am a low-life crime writer who wants to corrupt readers.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/harms-way-alan-annand/1106579631

Meanwhile, the crowd at Amazon and Apple are obviously reading the book backwards, because their reviews are also far too complimentary. On Amazon, 20 reviews average 4.0 stars, while at Apple, 46 reviews average 4.5.

thumb_HW

One-liners from Amazon: “One of the best reads in a long time. Everything you want in a story: suspense, action, strong characters, sex, romance and a great storyline. All the twists and turns in the plot make it a page-turner you can’t put down. Hot action keeps you on the edge. A great mystery and detective book.

http://www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-Alan-Annand-ebook/dp/B005LVXIA2

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/harms-way/id471751935

So the jury’s still out. But did I not plan and execute the narration of multiple heinous crimes? Did I not portray men and women in acts of degradation and violence purely for my own gratification? Did I not kill their children – Innocence, Grace and Hope?

Why don’t more readers hate this book? Am I not edgy?

Read HARM’S WAY and cast your vote.

HARM’S WAY by Alan Annand: Top 10 in hard-boiled mystery!

12 Dec

thumb_HWFor the past three months, HARM’S WAY has been in Amazon’s Top Ten category for hard-boiled mystery thrillers.

Originally published by St.Martin’s Press in 1992 , I extensively rewrote this book for re-issue as an ebook in 2011.

Lee Harms, investigator-for-hire, is on the cusp of an on-and-off-again love affair with confidante and astrologer Celeste when fate serves up a witch’s brew of trouble.

Start with a broth of sexual intrigue, toss in a troubled redhead, stir in two kilos of cocaine, dissolve a few pages from a psychiatrist’s notebook, and bring to a boil the fury of a crime family whose son dies in a midnight bacchanal. Money ignites the fire under this cauldron, but sex, violence and the darker forces of human nature keep it bubbling.

As dangerous as it gets, Harms must rely on his own wits to out-maneuver crack-crazed thugs, libidinous porn stars, and a deranged young woman with a troubled past. But when criminals kidnap his own ten-year-old daughter, he plunges into their underworld to rescue her from harm’s way.

Upon its initial release, here were some of the reviews at the time:

“For Canadian writers setting hard-boiled stories in Canada, the closest thing yet to a US-style private eye is Montreal investigator Lee Harms in Harm’s Way by Alan Annand.” ~ Rara-Avis Reviews

Harm’s Way is a solid P.I. thriller, a nastier-than-you’d-expect slab of pornography, cocaine, gangsters, incest, madness, torture and vengeance.” ~ Thrilling Detective

“Energy, superior punch-‘em out sequences, and humor.” ~ Kirkus Reviews

“Underneath the New Age trappings, divorced ex-cop Harms is plenty hard-boiled, using fists, guns and sheer wit to escape the many tight spots here.” ~ Publisher’s Weekly

In its latest reincarnation, HARM’S WAY has garnered 20 reviews on Amazon averaging 4.0 stars. http://www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-Alan-Annand-ebook/dp/B005LVXIA2

On Barnes & Noble, there are 18 reviews averaging 4.2 stars. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/harms-way-alan-annand/1106579631

And on Apple iTunes, there are 46 reviews averaging 4.5 stars. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/harms-way/id471751935

More good news: just in time for Christmas, HARM’S WAY is now priced at only $0.99 for the ebook edition.

And for anyone who still enjoys a physical book (now just $7.65), see Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Harms-Way-Alan-Annand/dp/0986920622

~~~~~~~~~

Book review Al-Quebeca: “Annand is a master craftsman of reader anxiety.”

15 Aug

thumb_AQA book review of Al-Quebeca recently appeared on the Serenity Now website, written by Val Tobin. Following is an excerpt:

For Sophie Gillette, Detective-Sergeant Homicide of the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM), it starts out as a routine investigation of a hit-and-run during a January snowstorm in Montreal. It ends in a terrorist plot to disable the electrical grid, behead a visiting governor, and kill thousands of hockey fans with poison gas. These two events sandwich between them a generous filling of biker wars, arms smuggling by First Nations warriors, militant student activists, drug financiers, and a rogue professor with a doctorate in chemical toxicology.

As if that weren’t enough to keep Gillette occupied, she’s recently suffered the loss of her brother to a covert military operation in Afghanistan, and her mother has turned to the bottle to assuage her grief. She also has to deal with being an attractive woman in a male-dominated work environment. As with author Alan Annand’s other novels, the lead character in his latest offering, Al-Quebeca, has more than a heaping helping of issues with which to deal.

How his detective, Sophie Gillette, follows the trail of brain matter and paint chips from the hit-and-run scene to the terrorist cell makes riveting reading. Annand is a master craftsman of reader anxiety. Much of his magic lies in his painstaking research. As with his other novels, he’s been meticulous in attention to detail, and ensuring what he writes is credible.

He also faced the challenge of writing from a female perspective. When asked about it, Annand says that he’d wanted his protagonist to “face the challenges of discrimination, physical struggle and self-doubt that made the choice of a female lead seem appropriate.” Annand succeeds in not only making Gillette a believable character, but also manages to make the reader forget she was written by a man.

All of the above make Al-Quebeca an exciting, suspenseful novel with well-rounded characters and richness of setting and plot. But what makes it particularly compelling, as well as frightening, is how plausible it all seems. In an April 2013 blog entry, Annand talks about the likelihood of something like this happening, and says, “I wrote the first draft of Al-Quebeca in 2009 and revised it several times since then. Each time it all seems even more inevitable.”

Fans of astrologer/palmist/private investigator Axel Crowe will be delighted to hear that Annand is currently writing a sequel to Scorpio Rising called Felonious Monk. He’s also rewriting his first published novel, an SF mystery set in post-apocalyptic New York, called Antenna Syndrome.

Get Al-Quebeca in Kindle or paperback at www.amazon.com/Al-Quebeca-ebook/dp/B00CHQOY8O 

All other digital formats at www.smashwords.com/books/view/309140 

Read the full original review at:

http://www.serenitynowgifts.com/resources/articles/al-quebeca_book_review.php 

Warning: This novel contains trace amounts of astrology!

19 May

thumb_HWThe other day I was browsing through some recent Amazon reviews of my hard-boiled mystery thriller Harm’s Way. It was originally published years ago under a pseudonym at St. Martin’s Press, but I rewrote it in 2011 and self-published it under my own name, eventually offering it free in 2013 to pique interest in my other mystery/thrillers.

In one review the reader complained that Montreal wasn’t Los Angeles and I wasn’t Raymond Chandler. Although I’d suspected the latter already, I was still pleased he’d correctly identified a writer whose style I’d emulated in writing the novel.

The reader went on to grumble, however, that the novel contained too much cat, as well as too much astrology. Just to paint the big picture, my private investigator owned a cat which was savaged by a rogue Doberman in the first chapter, thus requiring the attentions of a lady vet with whom my hero subsequently became, um, intimately involved.

As for the astrology, my hero had a longstanding astrologer lady friend with whom he occasionally sought counsel. In the novel, astrology was discussed in two scenes totalling less than 1400 words; in a novel of approximately 80,000 words, that’s roughly 1.7%.

Although little more than a page and a half every hundred pages, it was obviously too much – constituting a near-toxic dose for my reader, whose belief system was apparently so challenged by those few pages that he fell into a fever of intolerance, almost shutting down his reading experience.

In all fairness, perhaps he does suffer from allergies – probably to cats, but maybe also to open-mindedness. There’s a lot of that going around. Even among some of my own friends, who know I’ve been a professional astrologer for 30 years, there’s this attitude: Practice astrology all you want with the kooks you call your clients, but when it comes to writing novels, please don’t inflict that nonsense on the rest of us.

Luckily, I’m still amused by the ignorance of people ever ready to criticize things they know nothing about. Ironically, many of astrology’s harshest critics never read any serious books on the subject, nor consulted professional astrologers. Everyone wants the easy route, and clearly it’s less effort to develop an uninformed opinion than an informed one. As Sir Isaac Newton chided a fellow scientist critical of Newton’s interest in astrology, Newton said, “Sir, I have studied the subject. You have not.”

Anyway, that review got me thinking… Do we now live in an age where the public’s attitude toward astrology is as virulent as its allergy to peanuts, shellfish and soy? Do I need a consumer label on my book covers, saying: “Warning! This novel contains trace amounts of astrology. Those of a fragile mind are cautioned to browse elsewhere less you catch a New Age virus.

thumb_SRGood thing this particular reader hadn’t discovered my New Age noir mystery thriller Scorpio Rising, whose content dedicated to astrology, palmistry and other esoteric subjects runs to 10%. If he’d read that, he might have died of anaphylactic shock, and I’d be facing a lawsuit.

~~~

Alan Annand is an astrologer (Dipl-FAS, Dipl-ACVA) based in Toronto. He is also the author of several mystery thrillers, and some of his novels feature shockingly-realistic depictions of major and minor characters who are also astrologers.

Booknote: The Power and the Glory, by Graham Greene

5 Jan

the power and the gloryOver the years, I’ve read all of Graham Greene’s books. His writing is impeccable, and his characters are often trapped in some backwater of life, whether literal or figurative, in which faith struggles against despair.

This novel centers on a “whisky priest”, hunted and hounded by Marxist “Red Shirts” in the service of an anti-clerical Mexican government that in certain states has driven the Catholic Church into hiding. This sounds like SF, but actually happened in the mid-1930s.

As do many Greene characters, the nameless priest carries a heavy load of guilt. In his case, it’s the illegitimate child he fathered during the years when priests were de-celibatized and made to act like real men. Now he’s escaped into the jungle, running from the Red Shirts and administering baptisms, confessions and last rites to faithful peasants.

It’s a bit of an allegory, with the priest as Christ, a peasant Judas and a Marxist lieutenant as Pilate. The novel moves as slowly as an anaconda on a heavily humid day, but the language is deft and the story is as old and rich as the Bible.

~ Alan, Toronto, 5 Jan 2013

Something Wanton This Way Comes

20 Oct

Ever since the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey, reading glasses the world over have been fogging up with heavy breathing. Publishers, having taken the pulse of this phenomenon and found it throbbing, are now trolling through their backlists, looking for something salacious to satisfy the public’s new appetite for literary erotica.

Lacking fresh product to satisfy growing demand, book marketers are now desperate to put new lipstick on old tarts. A major search portal and a men’s magazine are rumored to have joined forces, and are buying up the rights to hundreds of literary classics. After tweaking the titles, a small army of hacks will then refurbish the story lines with just enough romance and raunchy sex to make readers come back for more.

Expect to see some of these titillating titles appearing as stocking-stuffers for mommies everywhere this Xmas:

  1. A Massage in India ~ E.M. Forster
  2. A Whore’s House ~ Heinrik Ibsen
  3. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlust ~ Lewis Carroll
  4. All the King’s Women ~ Robert Penn Warren
  5. As I Lay Coming ~ William Faulkner
  6. Briefing for a Descent into Her ~ Doris Lessing
  7. Chiquita ~ Vladimir Nabokov
  8. Dr Jekyll and Mrs Hyde ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
  9. Fagtime ~ E.L. Doctorow
  10. Girl Farm ~ George Orwell
  11. Hot Little Women ~ Louisa May Alcott
  12. I, Priapus ~ Robert Graves
  13. In Search of Lust Time ~ Marcel Proust
  14. King Leer ~ William Shakespeare
  15. Lady Oral ~ Margaret Atwood
  16. Midnight’s Chicken ~ Salman Rushdie
  17. Native Bastard ~ Richard Wright
  18. Necromancer ~ William Gibson
  19. Never Let Me Come ~ Kazuo Ishiguro
  20. Obsession ~ A.S. Byatt
  21. On the Broad ~ Jack Kerouac
  22. Play Her As She Lays ~ Joan Didion
  23. Sluthouse Five ~ Kurt Vonnegut
  24. Something Wanton This Way Comes ~ Ray Bradbury
  25. Son and Lover ~ D.H. Lawrence
  26. The Executioner’s Thong ~ Norman Mailer
  27. The French Lieutenant’s Boy ~ John Fowles
  28. The Lord Of The Cock Rings ~ J. R. R. Tolkien
  29. The Penis is A Lonely Hunter ~ Carson McCullers
  30. The Portrait of a Ladyboy ~ Henry James
  31. The Pot-Weed Factor ~ John Barth
  32. The Sex Adventures of Augie March ~ Saul Bellow
  33. The Sex Tourist’s Guide to the Galaxy ~ Douglas Adams
  34. The Way of All Flesh ~ Samuel Butler
  35. The Way We Love Now ~ Anthony Trollope
  36. Uranus is a Harsh Mistress ~ Robert Heinlein

Hide in Plain Sight: book review by Val Tobin @ Suite101

9 Oct

Take one rich twin and one poor twin, throw in a bipolar wife, shake violently, and you have the makings of another delicious crime novel by Alan Annand.

Alex Carson’s life has turned into a country song. He owes the government thousands of dollars in taxes, courtesy of his fraudulent accountant; his wife, Connie, is bipolar and his dog is dying. What he doesn’t realize is, things are going to get much worse. During a visit to Alex’s wealthy brother Dave, which Connie turns into a quest to get financial assistance, Connie causes Dave’s death after a heated argument.

Alex decides that the only way out of this mess is to take Dave’s place and allow Connie to go establish an alibi, thereby avoiding the ordeal of having to ‘fess up to the police about what had transpired. The execution of Alex’s creative solution makes for a crazy wild ride as we tag along in Alex’s first person narrative.

Inside the Mind of Alex Carson

According to Annand, who agreed to talk with Suite101 about his book, his use of the first person was designed to, among other things, “oblige the reader to suffer in sympathy with Alex, no matter what morally questionable actions he had to follow through on.” And suffer the reader does. Exquisitely.

During this charade, Alex must share a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, a woman stolen from Alex by Dave years before. He must also maneuver his way around Dave’s various existing relationships, including one with the housekeeper, with whom Dave may or may not have been having an affair.

Following Alex on his adventures in Dave Land makes compelling enough reading, but the questions that arise about what was going on in Dave’s life at the time of his death compound the intrigue and the tension. When you also factor in the logistical issues with which Alex must contend, reading the story becomes an addiction.

Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder and How to Dispose of a Corpse

Annand, as always, has done his research to make everything in his novel authentic and credible. Dave suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, something with which Annand was familiar via an extended family member who had the disease. Having Dave suffer from GBS was a unique twist that makes things more demanding for Alex playing Dave, and of course makes it more entertaining for the reader. Connie’s bipolar disorder also spices things up, but it also provides a glimpse of what it might be like to be married to someone who is bipolar.

The most intriguing questions presented by the novel, and dealt with deftly by Annand, however, relate to Dave’s body and how Alex deals with it: How can Alex store the corpse? Where will he keep it? How can he obscure the time of death? How can he create a new, believable cause of death? Can he really pull it off? Should he really pull it off? The practical considerations run neck and neck with the ethical ones.

Tension and Sleepless Nights with Hide in Plain Sight

Alan Annand has an uncanny knack for forcing the reader to read at breakneck speed to get past all the tense moments, while at the same time making him/her wish the ride would never end. The first time you read Hide in Plain Sight, you will want to savor it, but it’ll be impossible. As the tension and questions mount, you can’t help but read as fast as you can to see what happens next. It is a most delightful form of torture.

Don’t pick up this book if you’re looking for a bedtime reading cure for insomnia. But if you’re looking for suspense, tension and the queasiness that comes from participating in questionable activities, then this book is for you. This is the perfect book to take on a flight or on vacation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT  (psychological mystery suspense) eBook $2.99, paper $9.99.  A man assumes his twin brother’s identity in order to alibi his own wife who’s accidentally killed his brother in an argument. But when he finds himself sharing a bed with his beautiful sister-in-law, he faces bigger challenges and harder choices.

www.amazon.com/Hide-in-Plain-Sight-ebook/dp/B0050K1EZA

www.smashwords.com/books/view/59291

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Val Tobin is a Feature Writer for Suite101. Formerly a software developer, she has pursued her interests in the occult, paranormal and spiritual fields through formal studies in nutrition, mediumship and parapsychology, all of which have become active professional avenues. For more information, see her website at:  http://www.serenitynowgifts.com/

 

Scorpio Rising: book review by Dell Horoscope

22 Apr

SCORPIO RISING, by Alan Annand

What astrology needs to show its authentic depth is a super-hero in the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, and Hercule Poirot. Since astrologers have inside information about how the universe works beyond the apparent three dimensions of our manifest world, they should make great detectives. So far, our justice system remains skeptical about how astrologers might help, but a few writers have begun creating protagonists who use the celestial arts to solve murder cases.

Author Alan Annand has created Axel Crowe, an astrology-savvy hero in Scorpio Rising. In this dramatic tale, three murders take place simultaneously in three separate locations across the USA. Axel Crowe has been hired to investigate one of those murders. At first, all he knows about is the one that took place in New York. The other two murders take place in San Francisco and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Due to the wealth of all three of the murder victims, and the anti-terrorism work of the victim from Los Alamos, all kinds of police investigators and FBI agents are called in. Naturally, they don’t have a clue about whodunit, but Axel Crowe starts figur­ing it out after 300 pages or so. His first insight comes from noticing a variety of threes and triangle shapes during his investigation. The trail is interrupted by some violence, a few sex scenes, and a tangled narration that jumps from one location to the other every few pages.

When he arrives at a place relevant to the case, he adds up the digits in the address to get a numerological clue. He notices whether a corporate building is designed according to vastu (akin to feng shui) principles. When he’s offered a drink, he asks for mango juice (“rich in anti-oxidants”). He quickly sizes peopl­e up according to their ayurvedic body type or the shape of their hands and fingers. He reads signs, coincidences, and is always ready with an appropriate quote from his guru. What more could you ask for in a New Age hero?

Most importantly, Axel Crowe has an iPhone with an astrology app. When he arrives on a scene, he checks the current transits. He can guess a suspect’s rising sign with uncanny accuracy, and thus also derives a natal horoscope to check out character and alibis. As it turns out, the murder he’s investigating took place when Scorpio was rising, hence the title. Most people associate Scorpio with death, sex, and the dark side, and much of this book’s content provides ample fulfillment of this connection.

Take one of the main characters, Carrie Cassidy. In her opening scene, she meets a handsome, studly fellow on the elevator while on her way to visit her mother: “Fit as an athlete and squeaky clean, just the way she liked them.” She quickly hooks up with the stranger to indulge in an afternoon quickie, and still has time to visit her mother without being too late. For most of the story, Carrie appears to be an ambitious, lusty writer trying to make it big with her first novel. She’s spent the last three years working on it and just wants to get the thing pub­lished.

Those interested in astrology will find some satisfaction with Crowe’s analysis and interpretation, and the story line is a welcome entry into twen­ty-first century fiction. Naturally, Axel Crowe is skilled in the martial arts, and toward the end, he has a merry chase through the craggy terrain of New Mexico. In the last chapter, he explains to his client and the hapless mainstream detectives how the murders were all connected.

Spoiler Alert: The plot was akin to Alfred Hitchcock’s film Strangers on a Train, where each stranger agrees to kill the other stranger’s intended victim, a wife and a mother, respectively. In this way, the out-of-town killings would provide foolproof alibis. Hitchcock’s story involved two murders, while in Scorpio Rising, there are three.

Scorpio Rising is a step forward in the New Age detective genre. For those with a mystical blend and more than a touch of Scorpio darkness, you’re in for a treat. Just remember that, as Crowe’s guru was fond of saying, “The subtle has the capacity to penetrate the gross, but not vice versa.”

- Chris Lorenz @ Dell Horoscope

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)


Scorpio Rising: book review by Horoscope Guide

20 Mar

 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

For all the latest REVIEWS of Scorpio Rising, see: http://pinterest.com/alanannand/scorpio-rising/

To purchase Scorpio Rising (digital $2.99, paper $11.99)


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