Friday, September 04, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Blood Lines by Kathryn Casey

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Blood Lines by Kathryn Casey. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Blood Lines by Kathryn Casey

by
A Sarah Armstrong Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-37951-X (031237951X)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-37951-3 (9780312379513)
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $24.99

Review: Kathryn Casey interweaves what are essentially three stand-alone novellas, each of which could assume the book's title, into one volume, Blood Lines, the second in her series featuring Texas Ranger Sarah Armstrong.

Two of the storylines are mysteries in the sense they involve Sarah professionally. The more interesting of these is the suicide of a Houston oil company executive, Elizabeth "Billie" Cox. Sarah visits the scene of the woman's death, and is immediately suspicious: it looks staged, too perfect. But there is no obvious evidence to support her suspicions. Her investigation into Billie's death leads to a complex business deal that she was involved with, and information that she had been having an affair, though with whom is unknown. Then there's Billie's sister, Faith, who insists her sister's spirit is communicating with her. The forensic evidence that is uncovered, together with Sarah's insightful questioning of the suspects, and even the "ghostly" happenings in Billie's office, all make for an enjoyable, credible and satisfying procedural investigation.

The second mystery involves a pop singer, Cassidy Collins, who is being targeted by an obsessive fan, one capable of intercepting live audio feeds, replacing the singer's headphone music with words along the lines of "I'm here, and I've come for you." Cassidy's tour is bringing her to Dallas and Houston, and her manager wants assurances that Cassidy can be protected while in the state. Furthermore, a prime suspect is a student at Rice University in Houston. Sarah is assigned the task of doing background checks, and securing the venues prior to Cassidy's arrival. While this storyline has potential, there's really little suspense, the relationship that develops between Sarah and Cassidy is not believable, and the outcome is just a little too pat.

Finally, there's the non-mystery storyline involving Sarah, her mother and daughter, and the difficult birth of a foal on Sarah's ranch. Most mysteries have a personal backstory for the lead characters, but here it is written almost as a stand-alone narrative. It's touching, poignant, and quite rewarding in and of itself.

Taken together, Blood Lines reads like three days in the life of a multi-processing Sarah Armstrong. It's certainly not the typical approach to a mystery novel, and while it generally works, in the end it's also slightly disappointing that there was nothing to link the stories together ... other than the book's title.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of Blood Lines for this review.

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

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Sarah Armstrong has her hands full with two cases at once: A persistent and potentially lethal stalker pursues pop mega-star Cassidy Collins, and a high-energy Houston businesswoman is found dead in her house.

Though the businesswoman’s death is being called a suicide, when Sarah is shown photographs of the scene, something seems off. It looks too perfect, almost staged, and Billie Cox apparently had every reason to live. The victim’s sister is convinced Billie was murdered and urges Sarah to take a closer look. During her investigation, Sarah uncovers a multimillion-dollar scam and traces a trail of greed to Billie’s murderer.

Meanwhile, teenage idol Cassidy receives threatening e-mails and text messages and hears creepy whispers over her headset at performances. Cassie’s next performance is at a Houston rodeo, for which her handlers request extra security. Sarah once again teams up with FBI agent David Garrity, and together they plot to outwit and capture the stalker, but at the concert the unthinkable happens.

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