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by Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen, October 2022
288 pages
ISBN: 1728258308

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Ethel Crestwater is a retired FBI agent who rents rooms in her family home to government agents. Currently, the 75-year-old has three agents, one FBI and two Secret Service, renting rooms, along with her double-first-cousin-twice-removed, staying with her while attending college.

When one of her boarding house tenants, Jonathan Finch, is killed in an early morning shoot-out in front of Ethel's house, habits of solving crimes immediately involve Ethel in finding the killers. Jesse Cooper, her young cousin, becomes a cohort in her efforts since he rushed out and saw two men fleeing the scene just after shooting Finch.

Naturally, Ethel's training and experience kick in, and she is chasing clues immediately. It turns out that Finch stashed a gym bag under his bed, containing $250,000 in primarily counterfeit money, which gives Ethel an unexpected starting point. Then she and Jesse collect information, including the backup for Finch's computer, when they visit the deal man's wife and disabled son, Davie. Jesse is a computer geek and finds evidence of Finch's involvement in cryptocurrency when he starts reviewing Finch's backup.

Mark de Castrique fabricates an intriguing adventure in the début of his new series featuring Ethel Crestwater. Once again, de Castrique crafts a formidable thriller, combining government agencies with local police while throwing in two "unofficial" individuals determined to uncover the truth. The author also creatively uses LEGO blocks, cryptocurrency, and computer technology as he delivers this mystery at a suspense-driven pace. Best of all is de Castrique's new leading character, as he describes the indefatigable 75-year-old retired FBI agent – "a force to be reckoned with."

This note on de Castrique's website provides a little context:


26/10/21 12:43

In December of 2019 before Covid turned the world upside down, I was flying back to the East Coast from Phoenix. I started talking to the young woman beside me and asked where she was going.

"To Washington to visit my great aunt. She's eighty-five and lives in the house she was born in."

"No other family with her?" I asked.

"No. But we don't worry about her. She rents rooms to Secret Service and FBI agents. There's always someone in the house with a gun."

Although she didn't realize it, my fellow passenger had just given me the seed for a new character.

§ Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton's, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, October 2022

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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