My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Review: Murder in Thrall

Murder in Thrall – Anne Cleeland, 2013.  3/5

Brilliant Chief Inspector Lord Acton takes young newbie Detective Constable Kathleen Doyle under his wing to help solve a string of murders in this first of Cleeland’s New Scotland Yard Mysteries.

Cooly intelligent, handsome, unfailingly polite, educated, and disgustingly wealthy, Acton raises Doyle above the other lowly DCs—to their great envy and confusion—because he is aware of her special gift.

Doyle couldn’t be more different from Acton. She’s proudly Irish and Catholic, she’s not exactly swimming in cash, she’s a terrible driver, and her efforts to improve her vocabulary are sweetly pathetic. But—she can tell when people are lying and read the truth of their emotions. So far, his expertise and her intuition have solved several high profile-cases.

When a trainer at a local racetrack and the witness’s girlfriend, are killed point blank, and Kathleen’s own estranged father is murdered, Acton and Doyle must find the connection and stop the murderer.

The real story, however, is Acton and Doyle’s relationship. The title is perfectly indicative of the hold the main characters have on each other, and the motivation of the killer.

Acton is a Section Seven—a felony stalker— who’s had his eye on Kathleen for a while and it’s gone waaaay beyond the point of some binoculars and a few photos. He’s monitoring her computer. Buying her clothes. Planning their wedding.

And Doyle’s reaction is…positive. She’s flattered. Her Scooby Sense tells her that Acton genuinely loves her.

The killer keeps killing, and Acton predictably is overwhelmingly protective towards Doyle. He takes her off field work on the murder cases. And she knows that he knows something he’s not telling her. There is no shortage of suspects both internal and external, from Russian gun runners, to other DCs, to the lecherous head of Forensics. As the danger grows, Doyle ultimately must take care of herself.

Cleeland writes well. The dialogue is snappy, the pacing is great, and I very much enjoyed the police procedural aspects of this view into Scotland Yard. Likewise, supporting characters—especially Doyle’s supervisor Habib, and her nemesis the pretty, ambitious DC Munoz—add realism and depth to the story. The mystery itself does read a little thin, which I know because I pegged the killer early on. If I, truly among the most dupable of readers, can do that…well, it’s a little thin.

My big problem, however, is with Doyle and Acton’s relationship, which is just downright creepy and disturbing. He manipulates, directs, and basically takes over her life, and she’s happy to let him. When she’s frustrated at being put on desk work, or made to appear as if she’s in Acton’s bad graces, or has any qualms about the future, she just drinks the delicious latte he sends her and tells herself how stupid she is to be so sensitive.  After all, she knows he loves her, plus she’s having great sex. And she knows she’s good for him. She just needs to learn work with—or around—his possessiveness.

So, this is a tough one. I can’t relate well to Doyle quickly and contentedly abandoning her autonomy. I’m on the fence about reading the next book in the series. I probably will, just to see if Doyle and Acton’s relationship can evolve beyond obsession and self-subjugation.

rating system three crows


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Review: Edinburgh Twilight

Edinburgh Twilight – Carole Lawrence, 2017.

The year is 1881, and Ian Hamilton is the youngest of Edinburgh’s City Police force to earn the rank of Detective Inspector. His first solo case is a doozy: A serial killer is stalking the good – and bad – citizens of Edinburgh. Dubbed the Holyrood Strangler by the local press, the villain quickly racks up a significant body count. Teamed with the good-natured Sergeant Dickerson, Ian struggles to use his wits and modern detective techniques to find the killer.  Unfortunately, the strangler seems to always be a step ahead…

Edinburgh Twilight nicely brings the colorful Scottish city to life in all its aspects: from the grittiness of the slums to glitterati of the theater. Although the pacing lags at times, the story is replete with historical detail, lovingly vitalized for the reader. There are moments of gentle humor throughout that lighten the storyline and bring more depth to the characters.

Ian, however, is a difficult protagonist to like. Personal tragedy – losing both his parents in an arsonist’s fire – has left Ian estranged from his older brother and emotionally isolated from his fellow man. He is aloof, often self-righteous, and obsessively devoted to his work.  While readers understand that Ian’s flaws stem from childhood wounds, and we do get glimpses of a sensitive and empathetic side, it is a bit of work to relate to him.

While the bulk of the book centers on Ian’s brooding role, I would have enjoyed seeing other characters explored more deeply. One is left feeling slightly frustrated, as if doors to intriguing personalities had been opened but not entered.

Edinburgh Twilight is, overall, an enjoyable period mystery, populated with characters who great have potential for future development. This title promises to be the first in a series, and I would happily read a sequel.

rating system three and a half crows