Monday, September 28, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Never Sleep with a Suspect on Gabriola Island by Sandy Frances Duncan and George Szanto

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Never Sleep with a Suspect on Gabriola Island by Sandy Frances Duncan and George Szanto. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Never Sleep with a Suspect on Gabriola Island by Sandy Frances Duncan and George Szanto

by and
An Islands Investigations International Mystery

TouchWood Editions (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 1-894898-89-3 (1894898893)
ISBN-13: 978-1-894898-89-8 (9781894898898)
Publication Date: March 2009
List Price: $14.95

Review: Long known as a haven for writers and artists of all stripes, British Columbia’s Gulf Islands are now the setting for the debut adventure for the newly-formed detective agency of Islands Investigations International. It’s a two-person operation of odd couple 44- year-old Noel Franklin, a former Vancouver Sun investigative crime reporter who is grieving the death of his male lover, Brendan, and 36-year-old, thrice divorced insurance investigator Kyra Rachel. Noel lives on Cameron Island “an upscale condo development” on the shore of the city of Nanaimo while Kyra commutes from home base in Bellingham, Washington where she works for Puget Sound Life Insurance. As life-long friends they’ve kept in touch and when the aggressive Kyra visits Noel to see how he’s coping with Brendan’s untimely death she finds he’s got more than he can handle with the bereavement, a string of harassing late-night telephone calls, slashed automobile tires, and an invitation to investigate the mysterious death of groundskeeper, Roy Dempster, at the Gabriola Island Eaglenest Art Gallery. Never one to shy away from a problem or a mystery, Kyra eggs Noel on to accept the invitation to look into Dempster’s death and to bring her along as his assistant. For the intrepid twosome, the investigation becomes a wild and bumpy ride down their memory lanes and an exciting adventure that readers will find entertaining, well-written and a solid foundation for future episodes in the Islands Investigations International series.

Authors Duncan and Szanto keep the pace of their lively story moving right along with action highlights counter-pointed by sensitively told back-story episodes of Noel’s and Kyra’s lives and loves and their original meeting at their Bowen Island summer homes when she was ten years old and he was eighteen. There are infobits of historical information, as well, such as references to Nanaimo’s famous annual bathtub race and its bakery products known as Nanaimo bars. And because much of the story revolves around art and artists, there is an ample amount of well-integrated information about painters and paintings, real and fraudulent for various art movements. Facts and figures about the secret cultivation of poppy plants and a rare species of chrysanthemums are cleverly integrated too, and what would a BC mystery story be without episodes of a hidden pot grow? For added interest and suspense, there is an element of money-laundering in casinos and gambling resorts run by an international crime cartel headed by a renegade who “kills people who get in his way.” Since Noel is gay, readers get to meet his friends, colleagues and enemies, and to gain insight into his world, and since Kyra has a healthy sexual appetite, her activities are on display as well and, in fact, bring her to the brink of disaster when, despite her own whispered counsel and Noel’s advice, she voluntarily sleeps with one of the suspects on Gabriola Island. The ensemble cast of characters, heroes and villains, is an excellent one, including the elderly gossip columnist for The Gabriola Gab and another woman only six years and four months away from qualifying as a ”born again virgin.” Even the ferrys and watertaxis that transport Noel and Kyra from island to island add to the structure of the story and its ways-of-life scenes of the Gulf Island communities.

Memorable characters and a suspense-filled story with a surprising ending make for an entertaining read.

Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham ( for contributing his review of Never Sleep with a Suspect on Gabriola Island.

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

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Rose Gill Marchand, a paraplegic, brilliant botanist and co-owner, with her husband, of Eaglenest Gallery on Gabriola Island, finds the body of Roy Dempster, their gardener, sprawled dead on the gallery grounds. An RCMP investigation ensues, without immediate success. Upset by a suggestive gossipy article about the murder in the local paper, Rose's husband, Artemus, calls on Noel Franklin, an ex-investigative reporter living in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, and asks him to find evidence that will eliminate the spreading rumours. Noel agrees to start looking into it and asks his long-time friend Kyra Rachel an insurance investigator from Bellingham, Washington, to assist him.

As Noel and Kyra's inquiry proceeds, they discover that islands like Gabriola hide secrets far more mysterious than murder, far more dangerous than gossip, as each investigator falls prey to the depravity of those they need to trust.

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