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- Published on Amazon.com
Being born on the cusp of two star signs (Libra and Scorpio) life can sometimes be tricky - it's hard to be a magnetic, assertive, popular Scorpion when most days I'd rather be an indecisive, book-reading, stay-at-home Libran. Although, do the stars we were born under really affect the way we operate or is astrology only a pseudo-science; a money-spinner for magazines that print horoscopes and astrologers who, for a fee draw up birth charts which advise who to marry and where to seek fame and could-be-fortune? I don't know, but horoscopes are fun to read and so was Mitchell Scott Lewis' latest Starlight Detective Agency Mystery, Death In The 12th House.
David Lowell, head honcho of the Starlight Agency, is an astrologer who has had the foresight to put his vocation to good use by predicting the ups and downs of the share market and in so doing make more than a little money. Independently wealthy, he can pick and choose the cases he investigates and is always available to help the NYPD.
Sixty year-old rock n' roller, Freddie Finger is found hanging from a pipe with three bullets in his body. It certainly doesn't need an astrologer to tell NYPD Lieutenant Roland that Freddie is dead. Still popular with rock fans, Freddie was Mr. Nasty to everyone he came in contact with during his boozy, drug fuelled career. Overwhelmed by the number of candidates who would willingly have put an end to Freddie's warbling, Roland at the insistence of Freddie's daughter, Vivian Younger, calls in Astrological Detective David Lowell. Studying Freddie's ex-wives, band members and agents birth charts, Lowell looks for indications that when the going gets tough, one of these guys or gals will tough it out with a gun. Not able to arrive at a definite conclusion on who fingered Freddie, he alerts Lieutenant Roland that the previous accidental death of another band member is connected to Freddie's murder and current planetary positions show more mayhem is on the ascendant.
Vivien Younger, as her name suggests, is considerably younger than David Lowell... doesn't matter; there star signs make a conjunction and they have a brief affair. This is well written with feeling and empathy for two star crossed lovers; Vivien, who can't accept that the father she hardly knew is now lost to her forever and David Lowell, whose life was irrevocably changed by the murder of his son and divorce from a woman he still loves.
Mitchell Scott Lewis has created an engaging group of nice, nasty and nutty New York characters who help and hinder Lowell in his quest to get the stars to spill the beans on who clipped Freddie and why. Assisted by his office team; Sarah, willing to put her life on the line for a $700.00 pair of shoes (sounds reasonable), Mort the psychic, always good to have around in case what you're looking for isn't written in the stars and strongman Andy, chauffeur and bodyguard, David Lowell outwits seriously rich, seriously mad Fat Jimmy and his dumb nephew, Thin Jimmy's bid to stop the search for Freddie's murderer. The threat from the Jimmy's neutralised, Lowell checks out possible perpetrators as the planets spin out of control through murky, mysterious star formations to finally reveal the identity of Freddie's killer.
Mitchell Scott Lewis, a New York professional astrologer, has written a pacy funny story starring Astrological Detective David Lowell, a charming guy who only uses his martial art skills when it's absolutely necessary. If reading Death In The 12th House isn't in your horoscope then pencil it in; it's an exciting entertaining read.
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Beware of spoilers!
I want to preface this review by saying I haven't yet read the first book in this series, so forgive me if I miss something that has been mentioned in that one.
David Lowell is a wealthy astrologer, who just happens to run his own detective agency, the very lyrically named: Starlight Detective Agency. What intrigued me about this book was that David uses astrology to solve his cases. Having had my own chart done recently and understanding nothing of that reading, I was looking forward to reading something from an accomplished astrologer like Lewis, and I wasn't disappointed. In that respect, the book is engaging, and for a layperson, easy to understand in terms of the astrology aspects.
In this title, David is called in to investigate the death of Freddie Finger, an aging rocker - I kept thinking of Keith Richards when I was reading about Freddie. His is the third murder of an aging rock star and his daughter, Vivian, a famous actress, hires David to look into his murder. As a result, David spends his time looking into Freddie's wives, band-mates and manager to try and find out what happened to him. It is very much a ripped from the headlines story and the resolution was unexpected to say the least. All in all, the mystery/case aspect of this title was well done.
Another powerful aspect of this book is Lewis' love for NYC, which is apparent in his vivid descriptions of the city David lives and works in. Having read and seen a lot of photos of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, the vivid descriptions of the city are a joy to read.
But back to David. Lewis' style of writing is very laid back, and for certain aspects of the book, it works very well, but, as the book progresses, the tone never shifts. That becomes a weak part of what is a mystery series - the bulk of David's investigative technique involves interviewing people, asking them (or finding out through research) their birth details in order to create their charts, which help him direct his investigation. It's interesting, but for a detective novel, it is devoid of tension, of a sense of David's urgency to find Freddie's killer. Instead, he walks the neighborhood, or takes a drive to think.
David is also a character who doesn't struggle against anything (though I stand to be corrected considering the implications of the end - it reads like a reference to something that causes him angst from the first book) - he is wealthy, he travels in a limo, the cops trust him and his methods and he is renowned and successful. Granted, not every PI has to be poor, down on his luck and struggling for something in his life, but coupled with the laid back nature of the writing it contributed to the one-tone of the book.
There is an attempt at a romance, but it reads as a perfunctory part of the book, and is woefully under-developed. There are no stand outs in the secondary cast of characters either. I think this is a premise with such potential for more exciting stories, something I hope to see in future titles.
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