Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Anonymous Sources by Mary Louise Kelly - Book Review

I'm old enough to remember Mike Hammer ruthlessly gunning down bad guys and killing evil women with equal glee. Then came the somewhat more sensitive male detectives who work at conquering their problems while solving crimes. Slowly, as times have changed, the images of crime fiction heroes have changed, too. Now, we see the emergence of a new kind of woman detective. No longer are we entertained by tea and crumpets served by little old ladies solving crimes, but contemporary career women who use the assets they have to overcome evil in interesting and arresting situations filled with all the blood coursing excitement of a tight plot fraught with all the difficulties the genre presents. Anonymous Sources by Mary Louse Kelley (Gallery Books, June 18, 2013, 352 pages) does the job, presenting an attractive and sexy hero who's tough and spunky enough to accomplish her task while complex enough to remain interesting and unpredictable throughout. Mary Louise Kelly, in her first novel, appears to be a comer worth watching.

Alex James is a young reporter for the Boston Chronicle working higher education and getting an occasional byline. Thom Carlyle, son of the counsel to the President and recently returned from a year at Cambridge University where he was the Harvard Scholar, has apparently fallen from the roof of one of Harvard's houses (dorms) and killed himself. There's no evidence of foul play, and the reader is the only person who knows he has been killed. Alex has a good eye for elements that don't quite fit, and she begins snooping around with the support of her editor, the canny, crusty Hyde Rawlins. Alex, after some preliminary sleuthing, is convinced that Carlyle's death is no accident and convinces Rawlins that the death is worth investigating and that the answer lies in England where she, too, had studied. Off she goes....

Once in Cambridge, we meet the impossibly beautiful (and equally nasty) Petronella Black, the lusty Lord Lucienne Sly, and a mysterious Pakistani physicist who weekly receives large cases of bananas. Each clue presents Alex with several choices, and she doesn't always take to right one. One error she continues to make, as she has earlier in her life, involves falling into the wrong bed. She also loves British tea and gin & tonic in almost equal measure. Nevertheless, she's an indefatigable reporter, a smart person, and a likable character hiding a secret which adds depth and interest to her character. As the plot becomes increasingly complicated both British and American intelligence are involved and Alex is faced with a series of dilemmas not knowing whom to trust. The story builds in tension as she moves ever more deeply into the world of international intrigue and intelligence. 

Mary Louise Kelly
Author Mary Louise Kelly is herself an experienced reporter who's worked in both newpapers and television. She is a guest host for NPR’s news and talk programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, and Weekend Edition Saturday. A Georgia native, her first job as a local political reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution began her journalism career. In 1996, she made the leap to broadcasting and her assignments have taken her around the world: to the Afghan-Pakistan border, to mosques in Hamburg, to refugee camps during the Kosovo conflict, to the peace talks that ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland, and to the Iraqi desert. She is a Harvard graduate and has a master’s degree from Cambridge University in England. Currently, Kelly teaches national security and journalism classes at Georgetown University.

Alex James is a mostly believable woman who is neither a man in disguise nor a sopping romance character caught in a mystery story. She's only a little bit better looking, more competent, and sexier than a real woman, making her a good protagonist for a very readable summer novel. The novel is made up of over fifty short, punchy chapters, many with effective cliff-hangers that succeed in keeping the reader engaged and moving forward. There are plenty of well-disguised clues and plot twists to help maintain interest. The book never becomes preachy or boring, even when digging into Alex's deeply hidden secret or her more serious problems. Mary Louise Kelly is a first-time novelist who bears watching and the book's end suggests the possibility that Alex James will make a welcome return. Anonymous Sources by Mary Louise Kelly (Gallery Books, 352 pages, $26.00) is a first-rate summer read, fun and tense enough to keep a reader going. The book was supplied to me by the publisher through Edelweiss. I read it on my Kindle. If you should decide to order this book, please consider entering Amazon through the portal on my site or clicking on the links throughout this review.

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