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by Michael Blair
Linda Leith Publishing, April 2015
403 pages
ISBN: 1927535646

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

If you read a certain type of detective novel, you might think a detective's work is all excitement and brilliant leaps of imagination that lead to equally brilliant solutions. TRUE BELIEVERS is not that sort of detective novel. Instead, Michael Blair leads the reader through four days of slogging: trying to break into a password-protected computer; questioning and re-questioning people who may or may not have anything to do with the crime and hearing them lie and evade answering; and sitting on mind-numbing, extremity-numbing stake-outs in the middle of a Vermont winter. This may not exactly sound like the formula for a successful novel. After all, for all the probable realism of those scenarios, reading about mind-numbing tasks is, well, mind-numbing, right? In this case, luckily, no. Blair keeps the pace slow but the interest high in the first two-thirds of his novel, then quickens the action toward the end, intensifying threats and keeping the pages turning. All in all, it's a good read both for the plot and the characters.

The plot revolves around a group of people who believe aliens are coming to take them to another planet since earth is on its last legs. But this isn't a sci-fi novel at all, although there are a few discussions of the aliens and their planet. However, a woman's body is found on page four, another woman is thought to be missing quickly after that, and suddenly private investigator Hack Loomis finds himself caught up in the case because his partner - both business and romantic - Connie Noble knows the missing woman and asks him to look into her disappearance. Because he also knows the lawyer for whom the missing woman worked and the police officer investigating the murder case, Hack is involved from several angles, all of which point to something more mysterious than aliens at work in the group of believers. Before it's all over, murder, kidnapping, con games, and all sorts of violence come into play, and Hack and Connie begin to yearn for the boring stake out or at least a calmer life of some sort - rather than the life-threatening situations they find themselves in.

Hack and Connie are fairly stereotypical characters: he's a tough P.I. with an eye for the ladies and a fairly soft heart; she's a good-looking dame with plenty of smarts. But in spite of their expected characteristics, they're quite likeable, and we get to know enough about them that they're not simply cardboard cut-outs. The minor characters are also drawn well enough to be distinctive (for the most part), and all are interesting enough that we want to know what happens to them. That, along with the pacing, the plot, and plenty of surprises to keep the puzzle intriguing means that while the novel doesn't have any deep, underlying meanings, it's well written and a nice way to while away a weekend.

Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, April 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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