Tuesday, March 10, 2015

False Tongues - False Promises

I am a new reader of Kate Charles and unfamiliar with the Callie Anson character and her mysteries. Having been a literacy instructor with elementary school aged children, one of the concepts we try to teach young readers is that the title is the author's promise to readers regarding what the book is about. Imagine my surprise to discover that a book subtitled "A Callie Anson Mystery" had a character so named, but wholly uninvolved in the murder mystery which takes place in the text!

Sebastian Frost (a teen-aged boy) is killed, as it turns out, as a result of cyber bullying. His body is found near a church, however it is not the church which Callie Anson serves as curate. Furthermore, Callie embarks on a week-long conference back at her theological alma mater, Cambridge, just as the murder is discovered. She spends the entire time span of the novel nowhere near the crime scene and seemingly oblivious to the fact the crime has even taken place. Her fiance, Marco, is the family liason officer with the police department assigned to solve the crime and cuff the culprit--however, his main task is to babysit the family during the initial days of shock and grief, get them to inquests on time, steer them clear of paparazzi, and maintain communication between them and the official channels of the investigation.

Marco and Callie, for the most part, spend any conversational moments talking about their relationship angst, family drama and jealousies regarding past lovers (with whom Callie is at the conference for the week.) In the course of that conversation, Callie tells Marco about a packet of photos, notes and journal entries she recovered from the inside of the chimney in her room [conveniently, the same dorm room she lived in as a student]. This gives Marco the idea to look inside the chimney in the dead boy's room where he discovers the evidence that finally pieces the puzzle together for the inspector handling the case.

That is ALL the involvement Callie Anson has with the mystery. Period.

In the meantime, the novel includes lots of interludes about the conference Callie is attending, with a variety of characters that don't impact the mystery in any way. The interludes about the vicar with whom Callie works (Brian) and the vicar's family also have virtually nothing to do with the mystery. (One family in the parish have a son who was friends with the deceased and the vicar's wife ends up offering solace to the boy's mother.) All of these parts of the book were superfluous in my opinion. They did not even offer readers a red herring to follow. I eventually started skipping them all as I did not have the background to care what happened to the characters therein.

I wanted to like this book, however it was in the end a disappointment. I found the promise of "A Callie Anson Mystery" to be a serious misnomer, unless the mystery is in what way the character is connected to the crime. And then it is still unsatisfying because the connection is so remotely minute. I doubt I will read any other offerings by this author based on my experience with this book.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of False Tongues from Shelf Awareness in exchange for this review.

From Kirkus Reviews . . .

A trip to her old college offers deacon Callie Anson (Deep Waters, 2009, etc.) both challenges and opportunities.Callie hadn't planned on attending Deacon's Week, her alma mater's conference for recent graduates. Her memories of Archbishop Temple House are sweet, but her breakup with her classmate Adam is just too recent and painful. Even her budding romance with Family Liaison Officer Mark Lombardi can't take the sting out of her memories of Adam's announcement shortly after their graduation that he'd be marrying parishioner Pippa instead of Callie. But Tamsin Howells swears that Adam isn't coming to Deacon's Week, and Callie would love to see Tamsin and her old friends Val Carver and Nicky Lamb. So she bundles off to Kings Cross station only to be bedeviled by weekend repairs on the District and Circle Lines—and finds when she finally arrives at Archbishop Temple that Adam has decided to come after all. Back home, Mark confronts his Italian family's coolness toward his relationship with Callie and their determination to find him a nice Italian girl instead. At work, he's involved in a heart-rending case: the stabbing death of Sebastian Frost, young, athletic and promising, the only child of Richard and Miranda Frost, a doctor and a surgeon. As Mark tries to guide the Frosts through the challenges of a police investigation they'd prefer was unnecessary, Callie confronts mysteries of her own: the mysteries of the human heart. Callie has never been more appealing than in this sensitive exploration of love and loss.

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