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by Diana Killian
Pocket Books, March 2006
336 pages
ISBN: 0743466802

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Grace Hollister is an academic transplanted from a girls' school in Los Angeles to the Lake District in England. She is currently employed by supposedly reformed jewel thief Peter Fox in his antique store, Rogue's Gallery. The pair are going through items given to the gallery when a new owner buys a local house. They find the contents of the bequest more amusing than not until they discover a letter from someone signing himself 'John', that implies he may own a previously unknown poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Just as Hollister and Fox are becoming intrigued by the possibility, a strange Turk invades their privacy, threatening Peter unless he produces something the oaf considers his. Peter has spent 14 months in a Turkish jail and the man, who speaks of some kind of contract, was one of his jailers.

The Japanese owner of the old house whose papers Peter and Grace were examining with such interest turns out to want his donation back as there had been an unfortunate mistake in their being given the documents. He is, however, interested in working with Grace, whose work as an author on Lord Byron is becoming known. His only interest in the house was in order to track down the Shelley sonnet of whose existence he had heard rumours.

Then the first corpse is found and both Grace and Fox, because of circumstantial evidence given a little nudge by the village's new librarian, are seen as murder suspects by the police.

My initial thought on beginning to read this book was that it was directed at young, very young, adults. The writing appeared light and simplistic and the plot relatively fragile. The baddies are full of comic book exaggeration and the protagonist fails to gain my sympathy.

Given the setting for the piece, I was disappointed that the author failed to make the most of it, certainly not evoking, to my mind, at least, the wonder and majesty of the area. At one stage I was somewhat put about when she describes a pair of hummingbirds playing in the garden. Oh well, perhaps someone had an import licence!

There was an attempt at a steamy love scene but, again to my mind, it failed to convince or evince the slightest hint of titillation.

The heroine certainly has to survive harrowing attempts on her life and there is a car chase obviously intended to terrify. The villain of the piece is not terribly well disguised but perhaps some readers (the very young at whom I thought the book directed?) may think differently.

SONNET OF THE SPHINX is number three in Diana Killian's Poetic Death series, following on from HIGH RHYMES AND MISDEMEANOURS and VERSE OF THE VAMPYRE.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, June 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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