I’m back to doing reviews on this blog and happy to be doing so. Today I welcome author and artist C.J. Shane and her novel Dragon’s Revenge.
About Dragon’s Revenge:
When Tucson private detective and Iraq War vet Letty Valdez is hired to investigate a murder, she immediately finds herself targeted by a violent criminal. To find the killer, Letty turns to an old memoir of life in late 19th century Tucson. Clues in in the memoir, with its tale of love between two immigrants – one, an Italian widow, and the other, an exiled Chinese revolutionary – launch Letty on a suspense-filled struggle to find answers, to stop the murderer – and to stay alive!
By the time I finished this book, I loved it.
The author attempts something difficult, and that always intrigues me. She mixes an almost abrupt telling of a modern day detective story with a lyrical, sometimes even meandering, historical document from a century earlier. At first the combination is jarring, but before long it sort of becomes hot and sour soup, or fried ice cream if you prefer. However you think of it, it works well and the rich tale she has woven from the two very different pieces captivated me.
Nearly half the book is a love story between two immigrants, one Italian and one Chinese. It’s told beautifully through the eyes of her young son, and it is both touching and believable. The prejudice shown to so many ethnicities will make you want to scream, and will possibly force you to take a hard look at some of today’s behavior, too. (At least I hope it will.)
The other piece of the story involves PI Letty Valdez helping a friend solve a murder that occurs in a university library. Of course the investigation quickly becomes far more complicated, with Letty in danger, a few tantalizing red herrings emerging, and a tie-in to the century-old love story. Ultimately, there is a satisfying ending with more than one unsavory sort getting what unsavory sorts deserve.
Letty Valdez is a wonderful character, as are most of the people who populate her life. In fact, one of my few criticisms is that perhaps too many of them are a little too wonderful. A tad more nuance and the occasional trace of a fault here and there, would probably have made the story stronger. Yet, I much prefer the direction Shane errs in to the other alternative: a story filled with alleged heroes no one can like or root for. I plan to download more Letty Valdez mysteries to my Kindle.
I readily admit that a reading experience is a combination of the skill of the writer, and the interests of the reader. Author Shane tells an interesting tale, and she tells it well. Her story also happens to intersect well with me. I’ve done a fair amount of research on immigration laws for my own writing and practically jumped out of my seat when I read about the Chinese exclusion act. I share the author’s apparent passion for social justice and her love of desert sunsets. And I practice qi gong (a relative of gong fu referred to often in the book.) So, while this is a novel I think anyone could enjoy; it is fair to disclose this is one book I could hardly have kept from appreciating.
I find the five start rating system much too confining, so I’ve gone to my own decimal point system. I give this a 4.6 (one of my highest ratings ever). It will round to 5 on all review sites.
(Know that I received a free mobi file of this book from Goddess Fish Promotions, the value of which would never be enough to entice me to write a better review for anyone.)
Read an Excerpt:
from the memoir: Mama agreed to sing at the rededication of the cathedral. She considered this a great honor and a spiritual responsibility. She wanted to do well to show her respect and devotion. Because of this, she began practicing every week as she had time, even though the rededication was six months away. She liked to climb a ladder up onto the flat roof of our adobe house and sing there. I asked her once why she went up on the roof.
“It’s the right place to talk to God and that’s what I’m doing when I sing. Singing here helps me to be strong.” Mama said. Mama was very religious. She talked to God a lot. She also talked to Jesus, the Virgin, and all the saints. Me, I never had much use for all that.
She was up on the roof one day when Drago came up the street with his cart. When Mama didn’t appear at our front door, he entered the gate to the side yard hoping to find her at the outdoor ovens. It was then that she began singing. Drago moved into the yard and stepped away from the adobe wall so that he could see her on the roof.
Mama stood straight upright, her long skirts moving slightly in the breeze. Her hands were clasped in front of her. She took another deep breath and out came that glorious mezzo-soprano, full and textured, subtle, rich with emotions I was too young to identify but would later know, emotions like passion and longing. Tendrils of curly dark hair escaped from the knot on her neck. Her northern Italian skin, pale like a pearl, glowed in the sunlight, and her dark eyes sparkled. My mama was a beautiful woman and she sang like an angel.
Drago stood transfixed in our garden, his hands at his side, his head bent upward to watch her. He was utterly still, utterly silent. I know this because I was hiding high in the branches of a tall mesquite tree behind him where he couldn’t see me. I was supposed to be doing my chores but I, too, liked to watch Mama when she was singing.
Drago stood for the longest time listening to Mama. I was watching Mama but when I looked at Drago, I saw that tears were running down his face.
I think that was the day that Drago fell in love with Mama, the day he first heard her sing.
This review is part of a book review tour sponsored by Goddess Fish Promotions. Visit Goddess Fish on Facebook and on Twitter. Click on the image to see the other stops on the tour.
Win a Prize:
C.J. Shane will be awarding her original artwork – an ink drawing of ocotillo on handmade paper in a wooden frame ready to hang with hooks and wire. Size of frame: 6 1/2″ by 8 1/2″ (U.S. ONLY),
The winner will be determined via rafflecopter. There are various ways to enter the contest multiple times during the tour. Enter here.
About the Author:
C.J. Shane is a writer and visual artist in Arizona. In addition to her mystery fiction, she is the author of eight nonfiction books. Her first fiction book, Desert Jade: A Letty Valdez Mystery, (11-2017) is a finalist for Best Suspense-Thriller novel, New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.
Learn more about the author at https://www.cjshane.com/
Also learn more about her at Goodreads, BookBub, and Facebook.
Learn more about Rope’s End Publishing.
Where to buy this book:
Barnes and Noble
If you are interested in a review from me:
My protagonist in Shape of Secrets is a human chameleon who solves a murder, so I am predisposed to reviewing stories on this blog featuring interesting shape shifters, or any soft-boiled crime novel with an unusual premise.
I am not interested in reviewing non-fiction, romance novels, stories which promote any particular religion, children’s books, or horror of any type. Please do not ask me to review BDSM erotica or books about vampires or zombies.
If you would like to be considered for a review, contact me at Zane (dot) Zeitman (at) gmail (dot) com.