Thursday, January 08, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Our Lady of Pain by Elena Forbes

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Our Lady of Pain by Elena Forbes. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Our Lady of Pain by Elena Forbes

A Mark Tartaglia Mystery

MacAdam Cage (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59692-316-4 (1596923164)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59692-316-4 (9781596923164)
Publication Date: November 2008
List Price: $24.00

Review: Our Lady of Pain is British author Elena Forbes second novel in the London detective Mark Tartaglia mystery series. While it’s a good read and with lots to recommend it, it doesn’t have the same degree of tension and excitement as Forbes blockbuster debut Die With Me that introduced Tartaglia and his team and “the Bridegroom”, a far more frightening and cold-blooded killer than the perpetrators Tartaglia tries to link to the two murders in Our Lady of Pain.

After getting to know Detective Tartaglia, his family and friends in Forbes first novel, it’s a pleasure to meet them again in this one. There are enough allusions to the earlier novel to refresh spine-tingling memories of the case or to make new readers want to read it. And there’s a consistency to the characters and their motivations that consolidates their credibility and their actions as this time they search for the murderer -- or is it murderers? -- of two mid-thirties women, strangled, stripped and their bodies grotesquely displayed with signs of S and M and references to a poem dedicated to “Our Lady of Pain.” Tartaglia is still dodging his sister’s invitations to have him meet the potential girl friends she has chosen for him. Sam Donovan, his gal Friday, is still repressing her feelings for her boss and again manages to get herself embroiled with a romantic partner who is nothing but trouble. And the neighbourhood cat continues to wander in and out of Tartaglia’s flat as the mood suits him. And like the cat, Detective “Slick Nick” Minderedes continues his tomcatting ways in chasing women, much to Donovan’s dismay, even her anger.

The suspects are credible villains as well, even as they hide their motivations and lie about their whereabouts forcing Tartaglia and his crew to ferret out the truth and expose their lies and false alibis. The first murder victim with her bedroom trunk full of S and M gear is no angel herself, and her half brother and her best friend are adept at scattering clouds of fairy dust for Tartaglia, Donovan and their colleagues to dispel as best they can with every modern resource available. And while they do their jobs and try to determine if a second murder is by a serial rapist or a copycat, Forbes tells the story from the viewpoints of various characters, and presents an intriguing study of how police team work and procedures combine to track clues, trace suspects, sift salt from sand and find the guilty parties -- even the most unlikely of them. And she’s one of the best at integrating the routines of police work with the emotional relationships of her characters, leaving readers wanting to know as much about their private lives as their actions in solving mysteries as large as murder and as small as the identity of the initials, “JB.”

Forbes' third novel, Evil in Return, is in the works.

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ( for contributing his review of Our Lady of Pain (based on an ARC of the book).

Review Copyright © 2009 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): On a snowy February morning, London art dealer Rachel Tenison goes for a jog through a dark and deserted Holland Park. Still giddy from the previous evening, her legs wobbly from too much drink and too little sleep, she trips and falls at the bottom of an icy hill. Lying on her back, enjoying the sensation of snowflakes melting on her skin, she savors the unexpected stillness of the moment. But then there’s a sharp crack of a tree branch close behind her, followed by a voice, softly calling her name.

Two days later, when Rachel’s naked, frozen body is discovered in the park, bound and arranged in a strangely symbolic manner, Detectives Mark Tartaglia and Sam Donovan are assigned the case. Still haunted by the Bridegroom, a chillingly seductive serial killer with a penchant for lonely girls and deadly heights, Tartaglia and Donovan are forced to put the past behind them as they try to uncover the identity of Rachel’s murderer. As they begin their investigation, however, they find that as much mystery surrounds Rachel’s life as it does her death. And when a tip from a journalist draws their attention to similarities between this murder and an unsolved crime committed the year before, the web becomes more tangled than ever ...

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