Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Murder in Shadow by Anne Cleeland: Reading Room Review

Murder in Shadow by Anne Cleeland is the sixth entry into the Doyle and Acton Mysteries/New Scotland Yard series, and it is an exciting, thrilling read. It's almost embarrassing how involved I become with the characters and action in these books. I know it's fiction, but it's so engrossing following Kathleen Doyle and Michael Sinclair, aka Lord Acton, and their personal and professional lives. Told from Kathleen's point of view, we are still able to gain great insight into the other character's thoughts and motives due to her intuitive gift. And, at the beginning of each chapter is a short clip of thought from Acton, allowing more insight into his take on the current situation. Murder in Shadow is a complex tale that engages the reader from beginning to end with its layers of actions that build upon each other.

Kathleen Doyle is indisputably pregnant with Acton's son, known to be a son already not because of ultra sounds, but because of Doyle's touch of the fey abilities. These abilities are often used by Acton to determine if a suspect or witness is lying or telling the truth. Doyle makes good use of them, too, in keeping up with her ever secretive husband's tendency to misdirect her. It is her intuitive skills that have her scalp itching with suspicion when Doyle is called to the scene of a murder and finds herself in charge of the scene, with Acton off supposedly testifying on police corruption and DI Thomas Williams, Doyle's closest friend and Acton's right-hand man, also conveniently tied up. Doyle smells manipulation, and since her instincts, even when someone is deliberately trying to cross her wires, sooner or later arrive at the truth of the matter, it's a beeline to Parliament that Kathleen makes to discover Acton in a hearing to protect his claim to being Lord Acton.

But, the manipulated murder case to which Doyle was assigned is not just a red herring for Acton's activities. It is a murder case that will have significant connections to other cases. This murder of a well-to-do man who is left shoe-less in an alley will come back to haunt even the major investigation that Acton is dealing with concerning corrupt officials in Scotland Yard. And, speaking of haunting, Doyle, who has dealt with a ghost or two before, is having nightly visits from a dead psychiatrist who briefly treated Acton, and the ghost is giving her vague warnings about Acton and Williams and her co-worker, Detective Sergeant Isabel Munoz. The dead and the living are constant sources of alarm in this story where Doyle is working frantically to save the lives and reputations of those she cares about. There are so many twists and turns in this thrilling story that GPS navigation would be needed in a lesser skilled author's hands. But, Anne Cleeland deftly controls the multiple threads and characters and guides the reader through the maze with clarity and purpose. 

The storylines in the Doyle and Acton series are always so smart, so clever, and so complex, and Cleeland is such a masterful storyteller. But the stories are deeply enriched by the absolute genius of the author's characters, starting with the insanely (using that word cautiously, Lord Acton) perfect matching of DCI Acton and DS Doyle. The rags and riches romance of Kathleen and Michael is one of the best developed relationships I've read. Their witty dialogue is something I can never get enough of. Detective Inspector Thomas Williams is forever devoted to both Kathleen and Michael, and like Kathleen, I am always buoyed by his appearance. Williams has some troubling matters to deal with in this story, and while he has matured quite a bit, he has made some mistakes that threaten to harm him and his friends. Doyle's somewhat nemesis, DS Isabel Munoz, continues to bait Doyle about her good fortune with Acton and dismiss Doyle's detective skills, but she, too, is coming into her own in both her police work and her personal relationships. Munoz has to walk a fine line in this current story, but she has good instincts that are getting better all the time. Of course, it's fortunate for Acton, Williams, and Munoz that they have Doyle watching their backs. As much as Doyle professes to be thick as a plank, she proves herself sharp as a tack and an invaluable resource time and time again, and it's so satisfying that Acton values her as well as loves her. 

Murder in Shadow, the sixth book in the Doyle and Acton Mystery series, is simply a smashing success. I recommend it highly and will no doubt be rereading parts of it myself. These books are truly places that I don't want to leave.

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