Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Series Highlight: Abbott and Lowell Forensics Mysteries by Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan

Those of us who pretty much live for great mystery stories can become quite exuberant about our favorite mystery series.  I consider myself fortunate that I have many such series to follow and enjoy..  Not unlike any love affair, the urge to rip open the cover of a new book in a series is undeniable and uncontrollable.  One of my favorite series that affects me with such passion is a relatively new one to the mystery scene, with three novels and one novella to date.  Jen J. Danna with the assistance of Ann Vanderlaan has created a forensics series that has me completely mesmerized.  The lead characters are Massachusetts State Police Trooper Leigh  Abbott and Forensic Anthropolgist/Professor Matt Lowell.  The cases that they find themselves sharing and solving hinge on bone forensics, an area that I knew little about and am now fascinated by.  Bones speak for the victims who can no longer speak for themselves.  (I'm sure that last line is a quote from somewhere in the books..)

Jen's blog/Web site is entitled Skeleton Keys, where you can keep up with news about the series and find articles concerning forensic anthropology that have you wanting to sign up for a dig The latest article on Skeleton Keys is about the uncovering of over 3,000 16th  and 17th century skeletons of Black Plague victims as a result of London's Crossrail Project to dig new underground tunnels.  The link to this captivating blog is
The latest entry into the Abbott and Lowell series, Two Parts Bloody Murder, is now available.  My review for this historically appealing book is below.  For my reviews of the preceding books in the series, click on my Review button on this blog.

Coming soon here on The Reading Room is an interview with Jen J. Danna, who will give us some insight into the Abbott and Lowell series and a glimpse into what's next.

My review of Two Parts Bloody Murder
Two Parts Bloody Murder (Abbott and Lowell Forensic Mysteries, #4)Two Parts Bloody Murder by Jen J. Danna

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There aren’t a lot of guarantees in life or reading, and when a sure thing comes along, it’s reason to celebrate.  So it is with each new novel in the Abbott and Lowell forensic mystery series by Jen J. Danna and Ann Vanderlaan.  Nothing is more satisfying for mystery series readers than finding a series that consistently delivers, and with the fourth installment in this series, absolute satisfaction is well established.  Danna has developed the main characters of Massachusetts State Trooper Leigh Abbott and forensic anthropologist Matt Lowell in well-paced, intriguing plots that smoothly blend their personal and professional relationships. The story lines are especially fascinating with the ability of forensic anthropology to supply answers for crime solving being written in a complete, yet understandable manner for readers who enjoy their mysteries having history hidden in its bones.  The supporting cast of characters continues to be amazing, with Matt’s team diverse in both personality and ethnicity, and playing off of each other in such a spirited way.  Dr. Rowe is a welcome increased presence in this book, and Leigh is finding some support in her co-workers, who are featured more, too.    

This fourth novel in the series is full of captivating history with dark, multi-generational secrets.  A hidden speak-easy from the 1930s, a Poe-terror of a body in a bricked-up false wall, and murders that follow the revenge as a dish served cold philosophy.  Every element of this novel gives a thrill of excitement that is maintained throughout the entire story.  If you enjoy learning your history through the great art of storytelling, prepare to enter into the 1930s world of prohibition and illegal booze as Abbott, Lowell, and Lowell’s eager team of assistants dig deep into the past to solve murders both past and present.  The characters encountered along the way are brilliantly developed, with secrets having been built on secrets finally seeing the light of day, and relationships that are at first glance unlinked or unremarkable being revealed for the unrelenting connections they are. 

Two Parts Bloody Murder begins when Trooper Abbott arrives at a landmark building in Lynn, Massachusetts to follow up on a tip from a senior citizen in a nursing home about a hidden body there, a body that would have been there for decades.  Upon her arrival, however, she had discovered a recently killed victim.  As ME Dr. Edward Rowe examines the man’s body, Leigh scouts around for any hidden places where an older victim might have been stashed.  What her prodding yields is beyond anything she could have imagined, a secret door leading to a basement level where a speakeasy from the 1930s is suspended in time.  Rowe is quickly on the scene, too, and with his expertise about this particular period of history in Boston, he and Abbott determine that there is indeed another body, remains secreted behind a literal brick wall.  With this development, Matt and his team are called in to join forces with Leigh, and the fun begins on getting the bones to talk.  Of course, Leigh also has the new case of the dead guy above ground, too.  Two separate cases, or not?  DNA from Matt’s skeleton and Leigh’s corpse prove to have quite the interesting link.  So, the search begins for clues that go back 80 years to solve the two murders.  The search and subsequent answers are cleverly constructed by the author to keep the reader in a delicious state of suspense, a beautifully layered, smart plot that will thrill to the very last page.

A subplot that continues in this addition to the series is that of Leigh’s late father’s position in the Massachusetts State Police, as she receives more cryptic messages concerning his tenure and hints at improprieties.  With Leigh and Matt having established their personal relationship, Matt is there to support her in this matter and to call in some much needed help.   This problem seems to be coming to a head, but with excruciating slowness for Leigh.

At the beginning of each chapter is a very brief explanation of a term dealing with prohibition, alcohol, effects and methods of “moonshine” alcohol.  These relate to the chapters and story line, flowing smoothly into the reader’s journey of discovery and providing a better understanding of the terminology of the era.  

Everything is done so well in these novels that it truly is a reading experience of pure satisfaction and excitement.  Jen Danna and Ann Vanderlaan are a reader’s dream come true, and this series is one that will become a favorite for all fans of mysteries with buried secrets.

View all my reviews

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