Richard Derus's Reviews > Simon Said

Simon Said by Sarah R. Shaber
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Mar 22, 2012

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Read from March 22 to April 14, 2012

Rating: 3.5* of five

The Book Report: First of the Professor Simon Shaw, forensic historian, series set in 1990s Raleigh, North Carolina. Simon Shaw's not having a good end of spring semester, 1996. His wife has left him, sending him into a deep depression. His colleagues are concerned, one of them to the point of using his depression as a lever to pry Simon out of small Kenan College's last tenured history professorship, in an academic-politics war that could end a career.

But it's the corpse in the college's historical home-cum-museum that's causing most of the trouble for Simon. In fact, it's about to get him killed, despite being seventy years dead. You see, Anne Bloodworth, the rightful heiress of the property, disappeared one April night in 1926, never to be seen or heard from again. Until a body is discovered in a routine excavation of the old house's vanished outdoor kitchen site.

Simon is called to the scene, told the probable timing of the death, and using clues such as a quilt in which the gun-shot corpse was wrapped, the jewelry the corpse still wore, and the lore of the house, gives Raleigh Police detective Otis Gates and Police Department counsel Julia McGloughlan an ID for the what, the killer's dead by now, can't prosecute a dead person, and let's all go on with life.

Simon can't just go on with life, and besides he's been depressed about his life since his wife left, so he latches on to the case. His investigation takes him into the world of upper-crust Raleigh before Jim Crow was tamed, into dusty library stacks, into microfiche readers and card catalogs, and requires him to survive murder attempts that make no sense in a case this old.

Until they do, in a moment of revelation that had me squirming in acute discomfort, and fanning pages to find out what was going to happen next.

My Review: Metaphorically speaking, that is, since one can't fan pages on a Kindle. Bella Rosa Books, a small press with the specific mission of rescuing out-of-print series mysteries for new fans to find, reprinted this 1997 St. Martin's Press Malice Domestic contest winner in 2011, and a Kindle version was made at the same time. Very wisely, the first book in the five-book series was free on Kindle for a few weeks, and even now is free for Prime members to read. It's whetted my appetite for the others, so their decision to forego immediate revenue for future sales is proving to be effective in at least one case.

This is not to say there are no issues with the Kindle edition. In several places, too many to be overlooked and forgiven, words or dates are missing (eg, David Morgan has all the Rolling Stone issues printed since . SINCE WHEN?!). Some flaws, such as Simon and Julia's attraction for each other being glued on to the plot, and the underuse of a perfectly delightful red herring suspect, are too minor to register as more than niggles.

In the end, it's the atmospherics of the book, the evocation of a vanished moment—and good riddance to it—that make the book fun. Simon is an entertaining sleuth, his pleasantly hang-dog ways and his sharp mind (if conveniently distractable eye) making him less a Holmes figure than a Maigret one. He's relatable and still plausible. And the book is good fun. Kindlers of the world, spend that $2.99 with no fear of wasting your money!
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Shovelmonkey1 How are you liking this one so far?

Shovelmonkey1 I finished, I finished *jumps up and down*

Richard Derus It's not so bad! I won't call it deathless. It's not bad, but I'm not quiiiite done yet.

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