CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 24. . . .March 3, 2017
The Black Tortoise. (A Peter Strand Mystery). (Rapid Reads).
Victoria, BC: Raven Books/Orca, March, 2017.
131 pp., pbk., pdf & epub., $9.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-1240-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-1241-3 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-1242-0 (epub).
Grades 11 and up / Ages 16 and up.
Review by Tara Stieglitz.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
I walked to the end of the pier and leaned carefully over the railing, the top of which was now missing. I thought I might see the sea turtle again.
Something was there, all right. And at first I thought it was my little shelled creatureóturtle or tortoiseówith a shiny black shell, but it was a plastic rain slicker. What is covered could have been almost anything, I suppose. But I was pretty sure it was a body. My belief was confirmed when the choppy water flipped up the slicker and I made out a face bobbing lifelessly. It was [as] if the pale corpse were shedding a second skin or emerging from its shell.
The Black Tortoise is the second in a series of short mystery novels about Peter Strand, a half-Chinese, half-Cherokee forensic accountant and private investigator in San Francisco. Peter is hired to look into the Fog City Arts Center by a member of the centerís board who is concerned about the chaotic state of the center since the hiring of a new executive director. Peter begins to investigate the centerís accounts, meeting a string of unusual characters, many of whom appear to have secrets. When one of the centerís staff turns up dead, Peter finds himself at the centre of a criminal investigation that may or may not have anything to do with the centerís finances.
The Black Tortoise is a quick and entertaining read. The short length of the book means the reader only gets snippets of a sense of who Peter Strand is and many of the other characters lack detail. Since this book is only the second of a planned series, it is likely that Peterís character will be fleshed out over time. While many of the supporting characters are flat, the descriptions of San Francisco are detailed and evocative, making the city a tangible presence in the story. The Black Tortoise is an action-packed and simple read making it an excellent choice for older teens who read below grade level or anyone else who wants a short and engaging mystery.
Tara Stieglitz is a librarian at MacEwan University in Edmonton, AB.
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