A Jeneva Leopold Mystery by Ashna Graves
Review: A homeless man has been murdered, probably by another homeless person, a crime that barely merits the attention of the local police. But the number of people that show up for Angel de Silva's service astounds local reporter Jeneva "Neva" Leopold. Here was a man who obviously touched a lot of lives, a cross-section of all of Willamette (Oregon) society. She considers writing a story about him, but doesn't quite know where to begin in No Angel, the second mystery in this series by Ashna Graves.
Neva's investigation begins in a round-about manner, a conversation with an eccentric landscape architect, one who has created a vast greenhouse within an abandoned warehouse. As the unofficial supplier of plants for the city's park, he tells her stories he's overheard while working in the gardens of the park. One of these stories has it that Angel had $500 on him when he was killed, a sum of money that could provide a motive for murder. And he even provides her with likely suspects. None of the information seems credible to her, but Neva dutifully takes it the police anyway, who confirm her suspicions. "Pure fantasy," says the detective in charge. "The man's deluded. He spends too much time on his knees with nobody but the daffodils and posies for company. You don't want to believe a word he says." And yet the more time she spends learning about the life of Angel, the more she comes to believe that what she's learned is not "pure fantasy" at all.
Neva's sense of purpose in writing her story is set early on. Here's a passage taken during her attendance at Angel's service:
After the first few words describing the [service] she had stopped writing and now studied the crowd, puzzled and uneasy in a way that had nothing to do with murder. How could this have happened? How could a homeless man have commanded such love? And not just from fellow street people but solid citizens with haircuts and umbrellas, townspeople who had turned out by the score to grieve together.
How could this have happened — and she had missed it?
She, Jeneva Leopold, the official town know-it-all, had missed it.
Angel de Silva had sat on a bench day after day outside the old stone post office on Second Street and managed to win a following worthy of celebrity, yet she had never exchanged a single word with him.
It's unusual for a character to make an investigation as much about themself as it is about the person being studied, but it works here. The well-structured plot moves along at a steady, measured pace, not exactly slow but not zippy either. This is in part due to the somewhat introspective approach Neva takes but also the fact that there are quite a few creatively drawn and interesting characters being introduced while the murder mystery itself unfolds in a rather routine manner. No Angel is a solid, if also a cautiously safe, follow-up to the excellent debut novel that featured this character.
Acknowledgment: the author provided a copy of No Angel for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Death Pans Out
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), March 2007
ISBN-13: 9781590583739; ISBN-10: 1590583736
Location(s) referenced in No Angel: Oregon
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No Angel by Ashna Graves — A Jeneva Leopold Mystery
Publisher: Lychgate Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: October 2012
List Price: $14.00