Sunday, August 29, 2010

When The Dead Speak by S. D. Tooley

It was the paranormal aspect of S. D. Tooley’s novel, When the Dead Speak that caught my attention. The sleuth, Sergeant Samantha (Sam) Casey has a unique gift. She can sense images and intuition from the dead. They tell her things. Being an author of paranormal abilities, I had to read this book.

A quote from Mystery news is printed on the cover above the title: “The book opens with a bang, literally.” Well, not so much ‘literally’ but it does open with an eighteen wheeler smashing into a concrete support on a highway overpass. As the column crumbles, a body is exposed, encased in the concrete. That is a good way to open a novel.

Meanwhile, Sam Casey is working undercover, infiltrating the household of a state senator, who has his eyes set on the governor’s seat. She is nearly caught by a security guard but manages to escape.

After hearing reports of a break-in at the senator’s home, her chief suspects Sam of using her off-duty hours for private work and transfers her to another precinct. There, Sam comes face to face with her near-captor, Jake Mitchell and his partner Frank Travis. She is assigned to work with them to investigate the body in the concrete pillar. Since she was in disguise when he almost caught her, she hopes he won’t recognize her. Unfortunately, Jake never forgets a perfect set of legs.

The find themselves at odds with each other, exacerbated by Sam’s mother, Abby, who soon has Jake staying at their house, fixing him meals and washing his clothes. They manage to forge a working relationship as they try to solve the mystery. The man, Harvey Wilson, was reported as AWOL during the Korean War. So what happened to him between 1951 when he went missing and 1977 when the overpass was built? The leads they uncover lead to the state senator, Washington, DC and even to Sam’s father, who was an investigative reporter who died in 1977, the same year as Harvey Wilson. The common bond between all of them is a pin in the shape of a lightning bolt.

The investigation is hampered by the length of time since the Korean War. Most of the men who fought have long since died, narrowing down the number of people they can rely on for clues. But it seems there are those still alive and want those secrets to stay buried and Sam finds herself in increasing danger. She’ll need all of her powers if she is going to come out alive.

Tooley incorporates Native American mysticism into the story, more so than the paranormal. Abby has the ability to communicate with the spirits and ask for their intercession. Whether the spirits answer her supplications is conjectural, but Abby knows that Jake is meant for her daughter and makes certain that they see each other through her eyes. If they can stop being hostile to each other.

There is more than spirits and clairvoyance here. Tooley’s characters Sam, Abby and Alex, a Native American man living on Sam’s sprawling estate, can talk to the animals. Birds, especially, act as messengers and spies. Of course, not all conversations are aboveboard as Sam demonstrates when she has two pigeons do their business on her new commander’s paper work.

So the book has a sense of humor, too. Tooley spins a great tale mixed with government cover-up, blackmail, the unknown and love. It’s reminiscent of Brad Thor’s thrillers, which also involve government officials all the way up to the president.

When the Dead Speak is an exciting mystery with interesting turns every chapter.

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