Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mystery Book Review: House of Tarot Cards by Alfred M. Albers

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of House of Tarot Cards by Alfred M. Albers. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

House of Tarot Cards by Alfred M. Albers

A John Michaels Mystery

Infinity Publishing (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-7414-5181-6 (0741451816)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7414-5181-1 (9780741451811)
Publication Date: February 2009
List Price: $16.95

Review: John Michaels, a retired magician, is called upon as a consultant in a cold case recently reopened by the Virginia Beach police department in House of Tarot Cards, the second mystery in this series by Alfred M. Albers.

Detective Jeanie Roberts has been investigating the unsolved murder of a psychic that occurred some three years ago. Getting nowhere, she gets approval to seek an outside opinion and selects John who she had seen at one of his performances years ago. He agrees to help and quickly uncovers several key aspects of the case that had gone unnoticed by the police. And when it looks like a police insider may have been involved, either in the murder or a subsequent cover-up, he realizes this case may not be quite as cold as originally thought.

House of Tarot Cards is a mystery of missed opportunities, from the interesting (if unambitious) plot and the well-thought out (though poorly drawn) characters to the lifeless narrative and stilted dialog. Like many self-published books, it could have benefited from the services of a professional editor, tweaking here and there and vastly improving the overall reading experience. Many of the rules of Writing Fiction 101 are, if not outright broken, indifferently ignored. The most annoying here is having the characters constantly say the name of the person to whom they are speaking. [John suddenly grabbed Stella's arm, turned her around and pulled her close to him. "What's wrong, John?" Stella whispered. "Don't turn around, Stella."] To its credit, the book appears to have been adequately proofread as there are few obvious spelling, punctuation, syntax, or formatting errors commonly found in other self-published works.

The biggest missed opportunity, however, is not expanding on, or fully utilizing, John's former profession as a magician in his new role as amateur sleuth. There are brief glimpses where it comes into play (his powers of observation, his deductive reasoning, his diversions) but they are few and far between. They should have been center stage (as it were).

Despite some of the problems noted, House of Tarot Cards is overall a generally enjoyable mystery. The likeable characters and attractive setting will appeal to traditional / cozy fans who appreciate a storyline with minimal violence and no rough language.

Special thanks to Alfred M. Albers for providing a copy of House of Tarot Cards for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): It began as a plan to shakedown the local psychic community every month. The anonymous letters were the first step. If that didn't work, the phone calls started. It's in your best interest to pay ... or else, the muffled-voiced caller said. Those who didn't comply soon found their shop windows broken, and their car tires slashed. Eventually, everyone gave in except Mrs. Sylvia. She was determined not to pay protection money to a low-life who thought psychics were an easy mark for fast cash. Her stubbornness resulted in first-degree murder: hers.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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