________________ CM . . . . Volume XXII Number 27. . . .March 18, 2016


When Blood Lies. (A Nicole Charles Mystery). (Rapid Reads).

Linda L. Richards.
Victoria, BC: Raven Books/Orca, 2016.
147 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0837-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0838-6 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0839-3 (epub).

Grades 10-12 / Ages 15-17.

Review by Penta Ledger.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



“There’s something in there, Nic.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think so. I mean, look.” I pointed at the desk. “It’s empty.”

“Not in the drawer. I think there’s a chamber behind the drawer.”

“A chamber?” I imagined a vast room. I knew that couldn’t be what he meant, but I couldn’t get the picture out of my head.

“Yeah.” He pulled the drawer open again. Reaching inside. “See? This area is larger than what we’re seeing. Bottom and back.”

“Are you saying there’s a false back?”

But he didn’t answer. Instead, with a determined look on his face, he pulled a small crowbar out of his toolbox and moved in the direction of the desk.

“Hey!” I said when it looked like he was about to resort to force.

“If I’m right, what I’m about to break through wasn’t part of the desk in the first place.”

“Whatever. I paid a week’s salary for that desk!” At that moment, it didn’t seem relevant that it had been mostly the newspaper’s money, not mine.

He seemed not to have heard me, and it wasn’t long before I heard a loud crack followed by the splintering of wood.

“Holy Dinah!” It came from Kyle, but it could just as easily have been me. He looked up, eyes wide, from where he crouched on the floor in front of the desk. He’d been right. With a few quick chops, he’d broken through what he’d correctly guessed was the false back of the drawer. And there was something inside.

I watched Kyle, down on his knees, reach in and feel around. After a while his hand came back out. In it was what looked at first to be an oblong bundle of paper. He laid it on the floor and looked at me questioningly.

I shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. Go ahead.”

Cautiously, he pulled away layer upon layer of protective paper.

When all the paper was out of the way, we saw that the wrapping had been protecting a wine bottle unlike any I’d ever seen.


Nicole Charles writes a social column for the Vancouver Post but desperately wants to cover “real news” and earn her place among the real reporters. This seems like a lesser possibility than ever after her boss tells her that they’re downsizing and Nicole will have to work from home. Thankful she even has a job, Nicole uses the money the paper gives her to set up an office in her apartment and to buy an old desk at an auction. While Nicole’s bidding against a man at the auction, the police come in and arrest him. Nicole doesn’t have to look for a hot news story it’s found her.

     The desk is auctioned again after the man’s arrest, and Nicole wants the desk more than ever. She gets it for a great price, but, because her debit card won’t work, she has to ask her mother to come down and pay for it. Once Nicole gets the unexpectedly heavy desk home, she calls her brother, Kyle, to help open one of the drawers that is locked solid. Prying open the drawer, they discover several priceless bottles of vintage wine wrapped in paper. Was this why the man was bidding against her? With some onsite investigation at the auction house and several calls to Nicole’s friend at the police station, Nicole learns the name of the arrested man, Joseph MacLeish. To her surprise, she knows him, and he was, in fact, her brother’s best friend when they were kids.

     As Nicole continues to search for answers, her parent’s house is broken into. Nothing is taken, however, but it is clear that the criminals found out who paid for the desk and went looking for the secret contents. After much investigation, Nicole concludes that Joseph is not responsible for the break-in her parent’s house and that there is a deeper, more sinister link to the mafia.

      Nicole calls her friend at the police station to relay her suspicions, but with no real evidence to back up her claims, her friend says she can’t help. Nicole returns home, but just as she enters the door, intruders that are already in her apartment attack her. Moments pass, and Nicole hears sirens.

     Nicole’s friend at the police station did a little investigating of her own and found links to Nicole’s story. The mafia wasn’t interested in the wine, but in the paper the wine was wrapped in – valuable stock certificates. Knowing that Nicole might be in danger, she sent the police to her apartment. Just in time, the intruders are arrested, and Nicole’s story comes together.

     When Blood Lies is a fast paced crime novel, complete with surprising twists. As a “Nicole Charles Mystery”, Richards does a solid job of continuing Nicole’s character from the other novels. However, the opening of the novel does provide some background so that the reader would not have to have read previous novels to understand Nicole’s situation as a struggling reporter.

      Among the novel’s strengths is the fact that it uses simple language, but it still tells a ‘grown-up’ story. For struggling readers or those who are looking for a quick action filled story, When Blood Lies hits the mark. The story moves quickly, but the links among events are believable. Almost all of the ‘loose ends’ are logically explained, but there is one unanswered question about the desk’s hidden contents. Despite this fact, the close of the novel is satisfying and the answer to the remaining question remains a mystery.

Highly Recommended.

Penta Ledger is a teacher librarian at Gravenhurst High School in Gravenhurst, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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