Friday, September 9, 2016

No Stone Unturned by James W. Ziskin

First Sentence:  The story I heard was that Fast Jack Donovan was chasing a rabbit through the woods when he tripped in the wet leaves.
      
The body of a society girl is found half-buried in the woods. Reporter Ellie Stone hears the report on her scanner and heads to the scene with her camera.  Determined to boost her struggling career, Ellie pursues the investigation on her own.  The more secrets she uncovers, the greater her risk, perhaps even to her own life.
      
Delightful period references though the story; i.e., “Butterfield 8” and singing along with Mitch Miller, cement the sense of time, although they may not be recognized or appreciated by younger readers.  The period details are very well done, from the smoking, to all the blatant sexism with which Ellie must deal—“Mr. Short didn’t want an assignment this important handled by a greenhorn, and a girl besides.  Why don’t you go brew us a port of coffee?  Then you can buff your nails till suppertime.”  But the author’s wonderfully wry voice is nicely done—“For weeks, we’d been flirting through the teller’s window as he scribbled entries into my passbook and dealt me my withdrawals with the panache of a seasoned croupier.”
      
For all the lightness of the protagonist’s voice, there are also moments for one to consider—“I put the album down and thought with irony that the photographic record of Jordon Shaw’s life ended as it had begun.  My pictures of a muddied, naked corpse—as naked as the day she was born, as naked as the day she posed on a baby blanket—closed the book on her brief, privileged existence.”
      
Ziskin does a very good job of ratcheting up the danger to Ellie.  One does, however, wonder where the police are and how they came to give 20-something Ellie so much latitude and cooperation. The story does seem a bit overly complicated at times. The plot had a few too many red herrings, and seemed over-thought.  Still, it is the first book, and the quality of the writing merits reading the next book by this author.
      
No Stone Unturned” has an excellent protagonist; a number of very interesting secondary characters, and an increasing level of suspense that definitely holds one’s interest. 

NO STONE UNTURNED:  AN ELLIE STONE MYSTERY (Lic Inv/Report-Ellie Stone-Upstate NY-1960s) – Good
      Ziskin, James W. – 2nd in series
      Seventh Street Books – June 2014

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