STORYLINE: When we meet her, Sophia Evans is working for the MI5 in an attempt to stop an animal rights group from wreaking having with bombs. When a serial killer begins his work around London, Sophia is dragged into the case. Her job is to decode the messages being left by the killer on the bodies of his victims.
PLAYERS: Sophia Evans is brilliant at solving codes, but her work conflicts with her love life. Working with Theophilus Blackwell adds to that conflict, but she’s forced to function amid the challenges.
Theophilus Blackwell has a complicated life. His wife’s illness means he is stuck in limbo and the pressure of solving a grisly series of murders doesn’t help his situation. He’s tenacious and focused, which are great traits in crime fiction characters.
I LIKED: the creepy way the book starts. Immediately, it tells the reader he/she is dealing with a twisted individual. I give you the first couple of lines, which makes me cringe. Remembering the sounds sent a quiver up his spine. An extraordinary crack-the impact of an iron ball hitting bone.
The characters are complex and I still don’t have Sophia totally figured out, but that’s okay because it makes for interesting reading. She sometimes does the unexpected and puts her foot in it, which is something many of us can relate to.
I COULD HAVE LIVED WITHOUT: finding out that I’m not as bright as I think. The codes went over my head and I didn’t spend time trying to figure them out. This didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the book. Fans of codes and such will ecstatic. The code is in the print version of the book and the author has placed the codes on her site here.
COVER NOTE: The cover works for this story. Really like that keyboard, which is not your run-of-the-mill, modern day variety. The droplet of blood on one of the bottom keys speaks to the story genre. The book title is well chosen.
OVERALL COMMENTS: It didn’t take me long to read this novel. It doesn’t go at breakneck speed, but held my interest. It doesn’t have a 100% modern day feel because the writer’s style reminds me of other crime fiction I’ve read that is set in England several decades ago. I think she did a good job with the British terms and creating a setting that felt realistic.
I found the characters interesting and could relate to them on various levels. The woman who doesn’t quite know where she’s at in her relationship and the man who’s married, but conflicted because he’s attracted to someone other than his wife. I found Theo’s partner Dorland to be a good foil. He’s a rough, good-natured, bumbling man, but that’s where any resemblance to the stereotypical ends, because he’s not stupid.
A devastating incident takes place, but Sophia continues working. I didn’t quibble too much about it, considering the urgency of closing the case, but it did give me pause.
The criminal is not obvious, but Draper does the unique in that he’s not presented to the reader in the usual way. There is a kind of ironic twist at the end, where Sophia finds that the number she worked so hard to decode, and which seemed so familiar, was under her nose all the time.
I’m looking forward to the second book in the series, not only for whatever mystery Draper comes up with, but to find out how the relationship develops between Evans/Blackwell. I also want to know if anything changes with Blackwell’s wife.
SOURCE: I downloaded The Sholes Key from Amazon.