Thursday, April 12, 2018

Book Review: 'Stolen Obsession' by Marlene M. Bell

Texas author/photographer/artist Marlene M Bell is well known for her sheep landscapes that grace the covers of publications such as, Sheep!, The Shepherd, Ranch & Rural Living and Sheep Industry News. She also owns and operates Ewephoric, a mail order venture to emphasize her desire for realistic sheep stationery, non-fiction books and sheep-related gifts. STOLEN OBSESSION is her debut novel – Book 1 of her ongoing Annalisse Series.

When offering a debut novel that promises to be a series it is imperative that the author capture the attention of the reader immediately – especially when the story is complex in characters, incidents and places as we discover in Stolen Obsession. Marlene manages to accomplish this imperative step with her opening page – ‘A ground fog shrouded investigators while they unearthed her roommate from the black dirt of a farmer’s field. The August crime scene played so vividly in Annalisse Drury’s head it made her queasy. She took a shuddering breath and closed her eyes. “It’s too soon to socialize. I can’t be here.” Annalisse scanned the room full of art collectors and met the gaze of a guest who watched her with curiosity. Shedding the embarrassment with a shrug and a smile, Annalisse considered using a headache as an excuse for a quick escape from the party. She’d rather hang out alone behind the walls of her Greenwich brownstone and dive into a Bronte novel—to an era far from her memories. No excuses tonight. She couldn’t disappoint her favorite client, Generosa Zavos, who expected her to stay for the evening launch of Zavos Art on SoHo’s gallery row. Annalisse slid next to the window for a break from eavesdropping. She couldn’t care less who had the best spa massages in New York, or who was having an affair. She smoothed down her ball gown to overcome the urge to cover her ears. Squeezing back the stinging in her eyes, Annalisse peered through the cool glass. SoHo’s boutique district substituted as a catwalk for leftovers and knock-offs from Fashion Week. Rain or radiance, women in split pencil skirts and above-the-waist belts, sporting zippered leather jackets, hit the streets in every season. Umbrellas in blue and black popped open along the sidewalk. The count-the-drop sprinkles had quickly changed to a torrent of water, and the squeals from a power couple caught without cover had Annalisse wishing she were outside sprinting with them. A clap of thunder shook the window and she sprang backward into a guest, jolting her from a wet Manhattan dream to reality. Pain rippled through her shoulder as she held onto a nearby drink cart, praying it wouldn’t roll away with her attached. “Sorry, miss. Are you all right?” The tattooed hand of a man in an ill-fitting jacket steadied the cart then brushed at her bare arm. For an art connoisseur, his dirty nails and sandpaper-rough fingers surprised her.’

With these intensely involving seeds planted the plot outline assures our attention for the novel – ‘People die, but legends live on. New York antiquities appraiser Annalisse Drury recently lost her best friend to murder. The killer’s identity may be linked to her friend’s expensive missing bracelet—a 500-year-old artifact that carries an ancient curse, one that unleashes evil upon any who dare wear the jewelry created for the Persian royal family. Weeks later, Annalisse sees a matching necklace at a Manhattan gallery opening. She begs the owner to destroy the cursed piece, but her pleas fall on deaf ears—despite the unnatural death that occurs during the opening. With two victims linked to the jewelry, Annalisse is certain she must act. Desperate, Annalisse enlists the gallery owner’s son to help—even though she’s afraid he’ll break her heart. Wealthy and devastatingly handsome, with a string of bereft women in his wake, Greek playboy Alec Zavos dismisses Annalisse’s concerns—until his parents are ripped from the Zavos family yacht during their ocean voyage near Crete. Annalisse and Alec race across two oceans to save his mother, feared dead or kidnapped. When the killer changes tactics and goes after Alec behind Annalisse’s back, can her plan to rescue Alec’s mother save them all?’

Steady, exacting thriller has started and for an opening book (especially a debut) it seems sure that Marlene M. Bell has a success on her hands Grady Harp, April 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.