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NO STONE UNTURNED
by James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books, June 2014
275 pages
$15.95
ISBN: 1616148837


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Following up on last year's STYX & STONE, James Ziskin brings us another Ellie Stone mystery, where once again Ellie is struggling to be taken seriously as a journalist in upstate New York in 1960. Here she hears a report of the discovery of the body of a young woman, whom she learns is Jordan Shaw, the beautiful and promiscuous daughter of the town judge and sees an opportunity both to further her career and find justice for the dead young woman. Well aware from previous experience of the pain the family of a murder victim experiences, Ellie is determined on a mission to find the murderer, even if it will cost her and the Shaw family greatly.

In a small town, news travels fast and rumors travel even faster and the town of New Holland is no different. In this case, however, the facts are more than the townspeople want to hear, particularly the details of the murdered woman's private life. But Ellie knows that the fact that the victim met two different men in the same seedy hotel room the night she died is relevant to catching her killer - even if her family and the town itself would rather just not think about it.

While this is not the type of novel that carries a heavy central message, there are serious themes throughout. Ellie (and indeed, the murdered Jordan) is a modern woman seeking freedom in a world still dominated by men and their paternal attitudes, both in the boardroom and the bedroom. Classic journalistic conundrums such as finding the balance between publishing relevant facts to the case and respecting the wishes of a victim's loved ones are presented in a way that is intelligent and never preachy. Most thought-provokingly, Ellie must make a decision at the book's finale whether or not to publish a false rumor in order to entice the culprit into action; and throughout the story, she is faced with an ongoing internal dilemma between being a reporter who plays by the accepted rules and finding justice for Jordan.

When I reviewed STYX & STONE last year, I noted that it was a solid first entry for a promising new character, but feared that when Ellie was faced with a case that did not personally affect her, her passion for justice might burn less fiercely. That concern was clearly misplaced. Ellie's growth as a character, one who is smarter, more mature, and less likely to use her body to extract information is evident, as is Ziskin's growth as a writer. The cast of characters is not only colorful, but full of reluctant suspects that present plenty of well-designed red herrings. While many readers might find the denouement to be somewhat disappointing and over-simple, the journey to that point is so entertaining that most will still find it worthwhile. NO STONE UNTURNED is a smart, relevant, and thoroughly compelling book that left me eagerly awaiting Ellie Stone's next adventure.

Ben Neal is a librarian who likes to fancy himself an amateur writer, humorist, detective, and coffee connoisseur in his spare time. He can be reached at beneneal@indiana.edu.

Reviewed by Ben Neal, May 2014

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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