Sunday, March 04, 2012

Sharon Pape's To Sketch a Thief and Sketch a Falling Star

I don't know if I've ever reviewed two books at one time, but Sharon Pape is my guest blogger tomorrow, so I read her last two books so I could catch up on the series. She warned me this is a series that needs to be read in order, at least with these first three books, and she's right. I reviewed Sketch Me If You Can, the first one, earlier. The second and third books in the series were just as satisfying. And, if you're a fan of Alice Kimberly's Haunted Bookshop mysteries, I suggest you try these books.

To Sketch a Thief finds former police sketch artist Rory McCain settled in her new job as a private investigator. With the assistance of her live-in ghost, former Arizona marshal Ezekial Drummond, she has enough business to keep them happy. Or, as happy as Rory can be with that uneasy partnership. She's not used to a man from the 1800s, with his views of women and life. And, he's not used to a woman confident in her own abilities and opinions.

It hasn't been long since Rory and Zeke found the man who killed Rory's uncle. This time, it's a stray dog that drags her into a murder investigation. When a large mutt shows up in Rory's garden, she can't reach his owner by phone, so she sets out to return Hobo to his home. When they get there, though, the door is ajar, and Hobo takes Rory straight to the body of his owner. The woman was killed, her Maltese is missing, but no one seems to want a mutt. So Rory takes Hobo home, only to find that dogs and a certain ghost don't mix. And, Rory's stubborn enough to keep the dog, no matter what Zeke thinks.

It's dogs that lead to the next case for Drummond and McCain. Rory's hired to find two other Maltese who were stolen. And, as she gets deeper into the case of missing dogs, she turns up an number of suspects, from the veterinarian to a woman who took a fancy to the dead woman's Maltese. And, Hobo may just have a clue.

Pape's two characters have a very uneasy alliance. Rory is reluctant to admit she needs anyone's help, but Drummond's experience as a lawman is invaluable. And, he needs her assistance to find out who killed him, shooting him in the back in 1878. It's amusing to watch the two tangle over roles, rules, and misunderstandings. And, despite Zeke and Hobo's reactions to each other, it's the lovable mutt who becomes an intermediary between Rory and Zeke.

In Sketch a Falling Star, Rory finally tries to find answers to Zeke's murder, although she keeps secrets from him, and doesn't tell him what she's doing. She plans a trip to Arizona, and her aunt, Helene, makes it easier by including her in a tour she plans for her amateur group, the Way Off Broadway Players. Rory's in Tucson doing research when she receives a frantic call from Helene. The group was caught up in a flash flood in Gray Wolf Canyon, and, Preston Wright, one of the members, died. It seems the tour group was never warned of the weather, and the Navajo police rule the death an accident.

But, when Rory returns home, and Zeke hears Preston Wright has a number of aliases, he isn't convinced the death was an accident. Then, Preston's own mother hires Rory, saying her son had ruined innocent people for twenty years. Once again, Rory sets Zeke's murder aside while she looks into the lives of the theater group.

This time, though, Rory can't just forget about Zeke's past. She's prodded by an unusual woman from her neighborhood. Eloise had a stroke, and now she not only can see and talk to Zeke, but she receives ominous messages, some pertaining to Zeke's past, and some to Rory's current investigation.

While Zeke's abilities to assist Rory are growing stronger, she's aware that she could lose her partner in crime if she finds his killer, and he's able to "move on toward the light." And, she is torn in her feelings. The two have butted heads constantly. On the other hand, she and Zeke and Hobo are starting to get along. "Now the three of them were like a family, albeit an unorthodox one. A family complete with arguments and slamming doors."

In Sketch A Falling Star, Pape returns to the style of the first book, interspersing Marshal Drummond's own story from 1878 with the current case. Those glimpses into Drummond's past take readers from Arizona through New Mexico, through violence and near-death, to the actual moment of Zeke's murder in New York. These scenes add to the meat of this story.

Sharon Pape's mysteries combine humor, a ghost, a dog, a cold case over one hundred years old with modern investigations involving DNA and Rory's sketches. Rory and Zeke work well together as partners who misunderstand each other more than they understand each other. Despite their sparring, the two grow to reluctantly respect each other. Even Rory's best friend feels "That her impulsiveness and general lack of caution would someday get her killed." And, the character of Zeke Drummond is a treasure, a gentleman and a determined lawman right out of 1878. How can you go wrong with those characters? Add the lovable Hobo, and the new eccentric down the street, and Sharon Pape's Portrait of Crime books are traditional mystery gems.

Sharon Pape's website is

To Sketch a Thief by Sharon Pape. Berkley Prime Crime. 2011. ISBN 9780425241929 (paperback), 293p.

Sketch a Falling Star by Sharon Pape. Berkley Prime Crime. 2012. ISBN 9780425246696 (paperback), 293p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me copies of the books, hoping I would review them.


Liz said...

This is a fun series.

Lesa said...

It is a fun series, Liz. I really like the characters in this one.

Karen C said...

Oh dear! Sounds like more for the TBR list!

Lesa said...

Unfortunately, you need to start at the beginning, Karen. So, if you like that one, it's three more for the TBR list.