Written in Blood
A Forensic Handwriting Mystery with Claudia Rose by Sheila Lowe
Review: A novel that starts with all of the trappings of a cosy, Written in Blood soon escalates into a captivating story with tinges of noir and episodes of abduction, human trafficking, car chases and, of course, murder most foul. It's an exhilarating ride well worth the taking.
A handwriting expert herself in her day job, Sheila Lowe treads the fine line between lecturing about forensic graphology and using her knowledge to capture and hold the reader's interest as her amateur sleuth, Claudia Rose, is hired as an expert witness to prove or discredit the authenticity of a signature on a will. It's a complicated challenge since her employer, Paige Sorensen, is the widow of 73-year-old Torg Sorensen who died of a mysterious heart attack, was "at least twice Paige's age," and left a hen scratching of a signature for Claudia to decipher at a hearing where her hated handwriting rival opposes her testimony, leaving her feeling as if "a herd of butterflies in elephant boots danced the tarantella in her stomach." Even the trial has its moments of gripping tension over who will win and what will happen afterwards as elements of the family rivalry between Paige and her three adult step-children are introduced with the two older ones hating her with a passion and the youngest wheelchair-bound male madly infatuated with her. With that mix the reader just knows something bad is bound to happen and it does.
Paige, as Claudia discovers, is no angel even though she is the headmistress at Sorensen Academy and truly concerned about a rebellious 14-year-old student, Annabelle Giordano, the daughter of a local gangster whom the teen-aged girl is convinced is a murderer and a would-be rapist. Claudia, against her better sense, develops a friendship of sorts with Paige and a mentoring relationship with Annabelle when she initiates a three-month remedial graphotherapy program for the troubled teenager. But when Claudia discovers that both Paige and Annabelle are interested in the school's athletic director Cruz Montenegro, one with a schoolgirl crush, the other with a passion for rough sex, she realizes there's more than forensic graphology at play. And then, when both the headmistress and the jealous teen-ager with her vow "to get that skanky slut" disappear, Claudia begins a search that uncovers the corpse of one and takes her in pursuit of the other from their hometown Los Angeles to Las Vegas with mysteries and surprises galore before the story concludes with an abduction, revelations about foreign children's kidnappings, a hair-raising car chase, rough justice for a murderer and accomplice, and a parental reconciliation of a father and daughter that would do Hollywood proud.
Besides doing a bang-up job with the storyline, Lowe handles the settings, atmosphere and characterization equally well. Her sexpot friend, Kelly, adds some relief to the serious tone of the main plot and her mentor, forensic psychologist Zebediah Gold is a stalwart friend as well. This time around her live-in lover, Joel Jovanic, a detective with the LAPD, appears as more of a cameo character travelling back and forth on cases of his own, but he's always in the background and shows up when Claudia needs him most. Similarly, Claudia's likeable teenage niece serves as a useful conduit for information between Annabelle and "Aunty C." Annabelle, Paige and Cruz are believable types too, one as the angst-ridden teenager, the other as the bereaved widow looking for love and justice, and the third as a support for both of them, but for one in a totally surprising way. The Sorensen brood very competently play out their roles in opposition as does the hated handwriting expert and a school financial officer with eyes for more than just Paige's money.
"The Moving Finger writes and having writ, Moves on … , " the poet Omar Khyam said. Hopefully, author Sheila Lowe having written a couple of great stories about forensic handwriting expert, Claudia Rose, will move on to write a few more.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of Written in Blood.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of Written in Blood for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Obsidian (Mass Market Paperback), August 2009
ISBN-13: 9780451228123; ISBN-10: 045122812X
Location(s) referenced in Written in Blood: Hollywood, California
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Written in Blood by Sheila Lowe — A Forensic Handwriting Mystery with Claudia Rose
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $6.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
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