Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Mystery Book Review: Cactus Island by William Manchee

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of Cactus Island by William Manchee. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Cactus Island by William Manchee

Cactus Island by William Manchee
A Stan Turner Mystery
Top Publications (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-929976-36-4 (1929976364)
ISBN-13: 978-1-929976-36-2 (9781929976362)
Publication Date: August 2006
List Price: $14.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Attorney Stan Turner is called out to Possum Kingdom Lake in central Texas where there's been a tragic Jeep accident. The teenage driver, Steven Caldwell, survives unscathed but his passenger dies. It appears to be just another tragic auto accident until the sheriff discovers Steven and the victim were in love with the same girl. When Steven is charged with murder, he insists the accident wasn't his fault. He claims he was distracted by an alien spacecraft flying overhead. At first Stan thinks his client's story is ridiculous, but as his investigation progresses he discovers his client may be telling the truth.

Review: Cactus Island, the 7th mystery in the Stan Turner series by William Manchee, features the Dallas-based attorney and his partner, Paula Waters, separately hired to represent two defendants accused of murder. Though their cases are not apparently related, it ultimately becomes clear there is something that links them together.

Stan agrees to defend a young man, Steven, who was driving a Jeep when it went over a cliff in the Texas hill country and crashed, killing his passenger, a rival for the girl he loved. Steven claims the crash was an accident, and that he was distracted by the sudden presence of an alien spacecraft overhead while negotiating a turn in the road.

Paula, originally hired to handle the divorce of Cheryl Windsor, is suddenly put in the role of her defense attorney when she’s accused of murdering her husband, who has disappeared but no body has been found. Cheryl maintains her innocence even though circumstantial evidence suggests she may have killed him.

Both of these cases, and the possibility they are connected in some way, provide an intriguing premise for this book. However, what starts out so promising descends into the absurd by the end of the book. Significant inconsistencies in the plot are left either unresolved or given irrational explanations. The irony here is that Manchee sets up a logical explanation for the events taking place around Cactus Island, yet that solution is merely a red herring to the illogical conclusion that is finally revealed.

In retrospect, Manchee foreshadows the flawed logic in Cactus Island in the prelude. While attending the funeral of his son, Peter, Stan states, “For anyone who discovered the truth would suffer the same fate as Peter.” Obviously Stan knows “the truth” and clearly he has not suffered the same fate as his son as he is still alive to tell the story.

And what a story it is: a silly plot with holes large enough to fly a spaceship through.

Special thanks to Top Publications for providing a copy of Cactus Island for this review.

Review Copyright © 2006 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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