Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Review of Ruined Stones by Eric Reed

England during World War II possessed all the elements a mystery writer could hope for. Thick fog mixed with coal dust cloaked the streets. With the air raids and blackouts, a single lit candle could invite destruction and one building ablaze could become a beacon to summon more bombs. Death was intimate: family and neighbors died on the battlefield and ofttimes on the home front. Who would care about the death of an unknown woman, her corpse found among the ruins of an ancient Roman temple?

In their atmospheric novel, Ruined Stones, Eric Mayer and Mary Reed (Eric Reed) exploit another aspect of the war: women brought in to fill traditionally male posts. Grace Baxter, a policeman's daughter, is recruited from a small town to serve in the Newcastle-on-Tyne police force. She is less-than-welcomed by those who see her as a poor replacement for the real police who have been called off to war. Newcastle itself is unreceptive: peculiar in its Geordie dialect and insular in its ways. The mood is tense: angry at Hitler but far off from the battlefront, the townspeople can only shake fists at one another.

Grace is given what is considered a trivial job. She is assigned to talk to prostitutes to discover the identity of a corpse. The body had been discovered at an old temple, with her arms and legs spread out in the form of a reverse swastika. Soon, however, a second body appears at the same site and posed in the same manner. With the very nation under attack, both the small police force and Grace feel overwhelmed, unable to get the support they need for a proper investigation.

With the setting of the ancient ruins, its history of pagan rituals, and the constant presence of local superstitions, the story takes on an eerie tone. Indeed, Grace comes from a family of "wise-women:" witches in a different age. She maintains her skepticism while recognizing, even within herself, the attraction of such ancestral creeds.

Among those under suspicion is Mr. Rutherford who tends to ruins and believes he can summon their power. Spiritualism is thriving: this is a time when everyone has someone dead to talk to. This includes Grace's boss, who has sunk into alcoholism since the loss of his wife and children.

The tone and sense of time and place are near perfect. The town suffers from despair and loss, of plodding ahead because the past is ruined. One of the authors, Mary Reed, grew up in Newcastle and knows its eccentricities. The novel is sprinkled with just the right amount of dialect to give flavor.

The married mystery-writing team of Eric Mayer and Mary Reed (that can't be as cool as it sounds -- do they solve local crimes in their spare time?) have penned one prior Grace Baxter novel, The Guardian Stones, along with an award-winning series set in sixth century Byzantium. With this so-cool it chills suspense novel, they may have another success on their hands.

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer blog.

 Martin Hill Ortiz is the author of Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press.

Never Kill A Friend, Ransom Note Press

Never Kill A Friend is available for purchase in hard cover format and as an ebook.
The story follows Shelley Krieg, an African-American detective for the Washington DC Metro PD as she tries to undo a wrong which sent an innocent teenager to prison.

Hard cover: Amazon US
Kindle: Amazon US
Hard cover: Amazon UK
Kindle: Amazon UK
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