Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review: Murder In the 11th House

Murder In the 11th House
By Mitchell Scott Lewis

First published: September 2011 by Poisoned Pen Press
Series: Starlight Detective Agency #1

Read: 3 – 27 October 2011
Challenges: Mystery & Suspense Challenge #9

Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley

From the publisher
Astrological detective David Lowell must use his charts and knowledge to solve the murder of a federal judge in a New York City parking garage. Joined by his daughter, Melinda, a young defense attorney; his hacker sidekick Mort; vivacious assistant Sarah; and bodyguard Andy, Lowell is racing against time to prove the innocence of Johnny Colbert, a loud mouthed bartender wrongly accused of the crime.

Birth charts and street smarts help Lowell sort out the misdirections of a cast of characters, from the judge's clerk and her lawyer boyfriend to the judge herself, to trace the real reason of the crime back to a surprising source.

Murder in the 11th House begins a new series that introduces a unique character to the annals of detective fiction.

My thoughts

I have always been interested in astrology and find it a very fascinating subject. Using astrology as a tool for solving murders sounded like a great concept, so I was excited to read this book. While the story itself was good, there were a few things that bugged me enough to make this a less enjoyable reading experience than I had hoped it would be.

The biggest problem for me was that I didn't connected with the main character David Lowell. From the very first page he came across as pretentious and arrogant and even though he mellowed a little during the course of the story, I never warmed to him. It felt a little like Lewis was trying too hard to make him a new quirky Sherlock Holmes and it just didn't work for me. My enjoyment of what I'm reading is always character-driven, so if I don't like the main character, chances are I won't enjoy the book as much. I did however like the rest of the cast, from Lowell's attorney daughter Melinda and the client Johnny to Lowell's secretary Sarah and assistant Mort. 

My other complaint, and people who aren't interested in astrology will probably disagree with me, is that I don't think astrology was used enough in the solving of the case. I think most of the information Lowell found by consulting charts could have been revealed by other means and sometimes I even forgot about the entire astrological element until Lowell pulled out another chart.

I also missed a little more story and less dialogue. Sometimes long dialogues consisting only of direct quotes got a little confusing. In addition there were some rants, for lack of a better word, on social issues like gambling that bordered on preaching in my eyes.

All that being said, the plot in itself was intriguing; a good murder mystery where the clues are slowly revealed and you can make your own guesses as to who the real murderer is.

My rating:

The Starlight Detective Agency Series
  1. Murder In the 11th House (2011)
  2. Death In the 12th House: Where Neptune Rules (2012) 


    Mystery Reader said...

    I agree with this review. I had the same opinion of the protagonist. Too much proselytizing for astrology and too little story and dialogue. In case you're interested, here's my review.

    Mystery Reader said...

    Forgotten URL

    Mitchell said...

    I take your constructive criticism to heart. As a debut novelist, I’m still learning and still shaping David’s character. I think you’ll be happier with him in the next book. As for the astrology, that’s a balance I am always working on: to please those who do like the chart readings, and those who just want to get on with the story. As for my rants, well, things about NYC and the world upset me, and I know I can’t change the world, but I do think there is a place in fiction to express concerns about real-life issues. But I take your point, and will keep an eye out for passing commentary vs. soapboxing. Thank you, really! It’s a help as I work on the new draft of book two.
    Mitchell Scott Lewis

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