Table of Contents

Fall 2007

Short Stories

Bus Stop

Deep Freeze

In the Ditch

Missed Connections

My Bedtime Buddy

On Silent Feet

Out of Service

Ric With No K

The Rorschach Affair

The Years of the Wicked

Under the Blanket of the Sun

Upon A New Road

Reviews

Ammunition

Bad Thoughts

Beating the Babushka

Bloodthirsty

Hidden Depths

Pay Here

Play Dead

Poison Pen

Silence

Who Is Conrad Hirst

Profiles/Features

Bronx Noir

In For Questioning

Together We Write

Profile: Derek Nikitas

Pelecanos Country

Interviews

George Pelecanos

Robert Fate

Rick Mofina

Kevin Wignall

Review:

POISON PEN by Sheila Lowe

Review by Claire McManus

Our book club's choice for October was POISON PEN, by Sheila Lowe.

I was actually the person who suggested this book to the club, after hearing about it on DorothyL. Without re-opening up the debate, which led to some rancor, I did think that the whole topic of graphology was interesting, and it turned out that a lot of people in the club felt like they'd like to learn more about the art / science of handwriting analysis. We also like to try newer authors, so we decided to give this one a shot.

Our heroine is graphologist Claudia Rose, who is called in to investigate the supposed death by suicide of a vicious Hollywood publicist. It's hard to believe that the victim, a highly successful narcissist, would commit suicide, and after analyzing the supposed suicide note, Claudia comes to believe that a murder has occurred. In the course of the case, Claudia gets involved with a sexy detective named Joel, and together they investigate.

We found that the book worked well for us on several levels. The author writes with a clear love of graphology, and a strong knowledge about it. And yet it never really felt like a textbook or too heavy-handed. We had a good debate about whether or not graphology is pseudoscience or not (a couple of our members had done research, and we were all surprised by the ferociousness of the debate). But you don't have to believe in graphology to enjoy the book; you just have to go along for the ride, and most of us did, with pleasure.

Another thing that worked well is the relationships among the women. Without getting into spoilers, Claudia and the victim had been friends at one point, until the victim did some really nasty things. The women in the group savored the nuanced details of the female friendships, while the men thought they were a little over the top and Rona Jaffe-like.

We also liked the chemistry between Claudia and the cop. The two of them seem like real people who are attracted to each other; the romance, though very "stock" in the genre, didn't feel too forced. Though there are some real breaches of police etiquette that the author misses.

All told, we did like this book. We found it to be an enjoyable read with a good (if not stellar) mystery. The pacing is good, we liked the characters, and we didn't think it felt overly contrived (like some mysteries). We weren't sure if the central theme of graphology is enough to build an entire series on--we thought we'd read maybe one more book by the same author with the same theme, but not more than that--but did like what we saw here. Our chief criticism was of the liberties taken with police procedure or "rules of the genre" that stretch what a detective is allowed to do, and it did sometimes seem a little melodramatic. But what else would one expect from a Hollywood publicist and an underlying sex scam?

It is always nice to discover new authors, and we enjoyed this book as good escapist fiction that we also learned something from.