Monday, October 26, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Dark Mirror by Barry Maitland

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

Dark Mirror by Barry Maitland

A Brock and Kolla Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-38399-1 (0312383991)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-38399-2 (9780312383992)
Publication Date: September 2009
List Price: $24.99

Review: DCI David Brock and newly promoted DI Kathy Kolla of the Scotland Yard Serious Crimes Unit are assigned to investigate the death of a graduate student at the London Library in Dark Mirror, the 10th mystery in this series by Barry Maitland.

Marion Summers collapsed and died in a reading room. The pathologist attributed the cause to arsenic poisoning. Although her death could have been suicide, it seems highly unlikely: arsenic is now a rare poison and is no longer readily available. And Marion was two months pregnant. Brock and Kolla's investigation is thwarted from the beginning because so little information is forthcoming about the dead woman. She had vacated the apartment at the address she had given months before, leaving no forwarding address. As an undergraduate student, she had given her aunt's name and address in Scotland as a contact. But her aunt knows nothing about her current status, but does give Brock and Kolla the name and address of her mother and step-father in London. They, too, say they know nothing of Marion’s private life. Even Marion's life as a graduate student is something of a mystery. Her professor believed that Marion had assisted an author in obtaining material for her book, by possibly plagiarizing another work, but the author knows little of the source. Kolla takes the lead here and the more she looks into the information they have been given, the less she seems to know. More and more a tangled web is weaved, making this first case that Kolla heads a very complex case indeed.

Dark Mirror is a mystery filled with twists and turns. Central to the story is Marion Summers, an intelligent young woman without a close family or public social life, an enigma to those who know her. The solution to her murder lies in understanding the woman herself, and Kolla isn't sure she's up to the task. There's a sense of fallibility here that endears her to the reader. Fans of the series will appreciate how the characters are evolving. Dark Mirror isn't a fast-paced novel, but one that draws the reader into its nooks and crannies, much like the unusual and rarefied setting of the murder, the London Library.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Dark Mirror and to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of the book for this review.

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

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Newly promoted to Detective Inspector, Kathy Kolla of the Serious Crimes Unit is called in by the forensic pathologist regarding the recent sudden death of a London student from what he’s determined to be arsenic poisoning. Marion Summers had no reason to be in contact with arsenic and, though once common, arsenic is now very hard to get hold of. The more Kolla investigates, the more she discovers that certain other things about Summers are also unusual. She moved three Octobers ago without leaving a forwarding address or informing her relatives. And her step-father has a disquieting past and, after attacking a constable in a pub, a not-so-savory present. With each turn in the investigation, it becomes increasingly clear that behind what really happened—and why—lies the most difficult-to-crack case the team has ever faced.

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