Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Book Review: 'The Hanging Girl' by Eileen Cook

Canadian author Eileen Cook is an experienced novelist, having published around twenty books that range from children’s books to romances to suspense thrillers: her novels appear in eight different languages. She also teaches writing and coaches other beginning writers. She lives in Vancouver.

Eileen’s comfortable writing style is apparent form the opening lines of this well written suspense novel that retains a dollop of humor – ‘Destiny is like a boulder. Bulky and hard to move. It’s easier to leave it alone than to try to change it. But that never kept anyone from trying. Trust me: I’m a professional. Reading people is a talent. I’ve always been a good observer, but as with any natural ability, if you want to be any good, you’ve got work at it. When I talk to people, I size them up. I listen to what they say and, more important, to what they don’t. I notice what they wear, what brands they choose, how they style their hair. I watch their body language to see if it matches their words. The image they work so hard to show off tells me what they’re trying to hide. I make guesses and let them lead me. It’s easier than it looks. Then again, most people aren’t paying that much attention when someone tells them what they want to hear. “What do you think, Skye—will it work out?” Sara leaned forward, ignoring the rest of what was going on in our school cafeteria. She chewed her lips. There were sticky pink clots of Sephora lip gloss on her teeth. Nerves. She was worried about what I would say. She’d have been better off worrying about why she wanted to stay with a guy who was a class-A jackass. However, she wasn’t paying me for love advice; she was paying for a psychic connection to the universe. I shuffled the cards. They were worn and faded, more like fabric than paper. My official story was that my grandmother had passed down this deck of tarot cards to me on her deathbed because she believed I’d inherited her psychic ability. This was a complete lie. The only thing my grandma believed in was bourbon. However, no one trusts a psychic who works with brand-new cards. I ordered the deck from Amazon years ago. When it arrived, I soaked each card in a weak tea bath, then put them in the oven, set on low.’

So we have met Skye, a fake psychic, reads tarot cards for fun – and profit. Or as the synopsis well outlines the direction of this intricate book – ‘ Skye Thorn has given tarot card readings for years, and now her psychic visions are helping the police find the town’s missing golden girl. It’s no challenge—her readings have always been faked, but this time she has some insider knowledge. The kidnapping was supposed to be easy—no one would get hurt and she’d get the money she needs to start a new life. But a seemingly harmless prank has turned dark, and Skye realizes the people she’s involved with are willing to kill to get what they want and she must discover their true identity before it’s too late.’

It is a rare writer who can successfully combine mystery with humor and Eileen Cook is one of them. A fine story with enough surprises and alterations in the direction of the storyline to keep us glued to the end. Grady Harp, May 18
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

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.