Sunday, May 29, 2011

Connecticut Crime Novel: WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF DEATH? by Steve Liskow

This is a really good mystery, hidden in a silly cover and under a completely wrong title. It's published by Mainly Murder Press, a relatively new publisher in Wethersfield, Connecticut -- and the "print-on-demand" publishing, coupled with fairly amateur page layouts, could convince you that this is more or less a self-published book, presumably because the author wasn't yet good enough to make the big leagues.


WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF DEATH? is going on a very special shelf here at Kingdom Books: the shelf where "first books" from authors we're betting on get stashed. Sure, this (probably retired) high school teacher has been writing short stories all his life, and has some manuscripts tucked away, but this is his first book-length publication.

Plot, characters -- oh, and genre. This is a "romantic" mystery in the sense that the main characters have love issues, and resolve them at about the same time that the death threats and criminal behavior resolve. Gorgeous romance author Taliesyn Holroyd is afraid for her life, and shows up at the office of private investigator Greg Nines, in urban Connecticut, looking for security for her upcoming author tour. The only thing is, that's clearly not her real name ... she's got to be hiding something about the threats ... and her level of fear is way higher than the situation seems to call for. Nines, not quite three years sober after a terrible drinking problem that followed his pregnant wife's death while he was still a cop, knows his stuff, and he's absolutely on target to tag "Tally" as a liar. Yet when his researcher partner, Svetlana Thirst, speed-reads the new potential client's work, she declares it's got fresh strengths -- this author is worth protecting.

While the violent attacks on "Tally" multiply, secrets in the household unfold, and Greg Nines has to face down some of his own hauntings before he and his police-force friend Art can see the case clearly enough to figure out how to interfere with a determined murderer targeting this client.
"...Someone wants to kill me." Her voice spirals out of control, and Greg leads her into the hall, Art a step behind them. Greg wraps his arms around her and holds her until she knows she won't scream. His stubble prickles her cheek.

"Where were you when this happened, Ms. Holroyd?"

"On the couch downstairs. Jim and Greg, Mr. Nines, went upstairs, and a minute later I heard Jim fall, and Greg shouted at me not to touch anything."

"Do you have any idea who would want to hurt you?"

[She] feels like she needs the right answer. "Nobody. Well, nobody I know. I'm working on a book, maybe someone's worried about that. We, I'm, using a real person as the basis for a character, but nobody ..."

... "We might as well start somewhere," Art says. "What is his name?"
I skipped lunch today in order to finish the book -- yep, several kinds of suspense, quick movement in the story, believable motives and changes ... Hey, I felt like I'd won a bet with myself, finding a bright new mystery worth reading and enjoying, against the odds of the physical book's appearance.

That cover? No, there are no skeletons or ghosts in the book, and no forensic anthropologists, either. The title? Nope, rockk-n-roll isn't in here either, although the author likes it ( And it's not a caper mystery, not light-hearted, not funny.

It's a good traditional whodunnit with unusual characters. Credit to Mainly Murder Press for spotting a well-done book and getting it into print. I see no suggestion that it will be part of a series, but Liskow says on his website that he's in fact developing a series in another setting (Detroit). I'll be watching for it.

1 comment:

Steve Liskow said...


Thank you for this insightful review. You're right, I didn't plan this book as the start of a series, but many people have asked for more, so another book with Nines & Tally is in a full rough draft, and two more are in outlines.

The Detroit series isn't going anywhere, so I'm probably going to transplant some of those stories to Connecticut. At least one of them already looks like it will work better out here.

Thanks for mentioning the Web site, too. I try to update it every few weeks, so there will be more news soon.