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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Review: Still Life With Devils

Still Life With Devils
by Deborah Grabien

It's mid-October in San Francisco and a serial killer the police have named Captain Nemo has just claimed his sixth pregnant victim. As tensions rise, two people work desperately to find the killer before he claims number seven. Homicide chief and single father Cassius Chant is desperate. Whoever Nemo is, he's left no evidence beyond an ever-lengthening line of dead women. Finally, a witness to the sixth murder comes forward.

Involving his artist sister Leontyne is the last thing Cassy wants to do, but with a possible eyewitness and the staff artist out sick, he has no choice. Only when Leo draws the killer's face does Cassy begin to believe he will finally unravel the twisted threads of this case. While Cassy pursues leads that may lead to justice, Leo knows she can find and face this demon alone. She's drawn that face before and she has a gift that transcends her artistic skill. Leo can walk into the worlds she's created on canvas. This time she's going to do it to find a killer.

The eerie start of "Still Life with Devils" by Deborah Grabien casts a shadow of foreboding that grows as one reads. The prologue introduces a mood utterly impossible to escape from. The main character, a lovely lady named Leo, is smart and resourceful and easy to identify with. Although she is ethnically a minority, she is quite plausibly any nice, competent American woman. Her profession as illustrator brings her into close association with the art world. Her family connections bring her some insider's type knowledge into some of the darker occurances in the area. Her own one unusual abilty brings her knowledge that is unattainable from more usual sources.

Other major women's roles include that of her neice Mara, also notable for strange abilities.

San Francisco, and primarily the Golden Gate Bridge area, provides a setting where almost anything seems possible. The art world, the paintings themselves, the references to various styles (our Leo is experimenting with Impressionism) is all well-described and interesting. The power of art - more even than the power of the artist - stretches into the paranormal. Those paranormal illusions, or perhaps more correctly explorations, offer a window into our main character as well as the events of the this thriller.

Tough cops, family interplay, and importance of relationships all are uncovered very realistically here. The threat from the omnipresent serial killer is present throughout. More importantly, the tangle of clues, presentiments, and threats are also uncovered, in impossible to predict ways.

This contemporary novel is fast paced, and for all its darkness, hope and friendship lie at its core. Romance is certainly a key aspect.

Review by Snapdragon

NOTE: Leave a comment on this review between 11/6/07 - 11/13/07 and be entered to win an electronic copy of this story from Drollerie Press!! Drawing will be held on Wednesday, November 14, 2007.