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by Sheila Lowe
Capital Crime Press, March 2007
288 pages
ISBN: 0977627608

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Hollywood publicist Lindsey Alexander is found dead in her luxurious apartment. Her death is ruled as suicide as a note was found near the body. Lindsey's partner Ivan asks Claudia Rose for help. Claudia is a handwriting analyst and can tell a lot about a person by the curves and loops of a person's writing.

Claudia and Lindsey had a troubled past but Claudia is willing to put the past aside and help Ivan by determining whether or not the suicide note is legitimate. The only problem is that the note is written in block lettering and Lindsey normally wrote in cursive. In order to do a true analysis, Claudia must find other examples of block letters with which to compare.

While attempting to discuss these necessary samples, Claudia discovers a lot of dirty little secrets. These include child abuse, blackmail, orgies and political games. Claudia also finds a murder victim while searching for clues. This leads her to Detective Joel Jovanic, the lead detective on the murder investigation. While Joel is hesitant to accept the validity or benefit of handwriting analysis, he does accept the fact that Claudia's life is at risk. He will go above and beyond the call of duty to protect her. Together Claudia and Joel must reveal Lindsey's killer before he or she can claim another victim.

POISON PEN starts off a little rough but the book does even out. The first several chapters do not move smoothly and are very choppy. As this is a first fictional novel, Lowe attempts to include a lot of popular themes and ideas in order to entice the reader, such as sexual relationships, blackmail, greedy characters, money and fast cars. These attributes provide a lot of filler to the book but it also makes it difficult to include all of this information as well as have an engaging beginning to the story. While Lowe does manage to tie all of these various elements together by the conclusion, the book could be just as appealing without using all of them.

The same holds true for the characters that appear in this book. When they are first introduced most of them appear very shallow and superficial. After all, a person's car and their catty responses to friends do not determine their personality or provide details about how they are going to react in stressful situations. Again, once characters are introduced and have the chance to interact with each other, they stop appearing one-dimensional and start becoming interesting. These two problems are very common in first mysteries as it is difficult to set the stage in order to get at the heart of the book without rushing or cutting corners.

The plot device I found appealing about POISON PEN is the use of handwriting tips to explore the plot and characters. While Claudia is exploring and investigating writing samples, the text supplies hints about how this analysis works as well as examples of the uses of this field.

For example, many of Claudia's clients want to use the results in regard to hiring staff, dating decisions and to get the inside scoop on business rivals. While I do not think that writing styles necessary reveal a person's inner psyche it is interesting to see the value other people place on them.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, January 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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