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by John Moss
Castle Street Mysteries, May 2009
336 pages
$11.99 CAD
ISBN: 1554884055

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

What can you say about a killer to whom death is an art form and the murder of innocent people secondary to the artistic tableaus in which they are arranged after death? John Moss takes us closer into the mind of such a killer than we may wish to go in his second Quin and Morgan book, GRAVE DOUBTS.

The story begins with the detectives visiting an old house slated for demolition where, behind the lathe and plaster, the crew has found two headless skeletons dressed in Victorian clothing and locked in an eternal embrace. A mystery? Certainly, but obviously a cold case, and more a matter of curiosity than crime; that is, until Miranda Quin finds the missing heads that contain very modern dental work. Further investigation reveals that the dead had no connection with each other, and much effort seemed to have been made to make it appear as if the entombment happened a century ago. The killer seemed more interested in the statement made by the deaths than any concern for the loss of life.

And whom to investigate? The suspects are as unique as the crime. Was it the subtly sexual forensic anthropologist who arrives at the scene to view the remains in situ or the romantic architect who happens to be an expert in colonial building and restoration?

There's more than a touch of the gothic in this strongly thematic book. Beginning with the couple in the enduring embrace the author leads us to more tableau death scenes. A possible saint, entombed in a crypt beneath the altar of a church: waxwork figures with very real flesh beneath their wax coating.

Once again, Moss has given us a story that centres on the intuitive detective skills of his protagonists, with only passing reference to the police department's routine and regulations. The author would rather have his readers concentrate on the impact the crimes have on Quin and Miranda, and how it drives their actions and develops their characters.

The story, enhanced by clever dialogue and rich prose, climaxes in a dramatic underwater rescue worthy of any thriller. Perhaps Moss stretches credibility a bit by having Morgan led to Miranda's rescue by little more than intuition, but to tell the truth, by the time I had reached the final pages I had so enjoyed the tale I was willing to forgive the liberty. John Moss's website informs me that there is another Quin and Miranda book in the wings. Be sure to watch for it.

Reviewed by Merrill Young, June 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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