Sunday, February 19, 2012

One Hand Killing: An Alex Sullivan Zen Mystery by Nancy O'Hara

 One Hand Killing: An Alex Sullivan Zen Mystery. Nancy O'Hara. Amazon Digital Services - Kindle Edition. 428 KB. ASIN No. B006LAA9WW.

Alex Sullivan has a Zen ability when she's in the middle of a crime scene in her role as an NYPD homicide detective. Going inward, she turns around and looks around a room, activating a sense for what is unusual and central to solving the mystery of a crime. But little does she know as she wearily travels upstate to a Zen monastery where she hopes to spend ten days reviving her inner spirit that this skill will be sorely needed very soon. Will it be to strengthen her for her job or is it time to be thinking about retiring? It turns out she won't be thinking about either, for upon arrival she senses an unusual tension among the community and not from the preparations for a Buddha birthday party to be held the following weekend!

Alex doesn't really get a chance to find out the problem when it is discovered that one of the monks is missing. The monastery is situated in the center of land surrounded by forest and mountains, so this monk could be anywhere. Almost before one can absorb the shock, the monk is found - dead - with a written message or Koan about a man hanging upside-down from a tree with a branch in his mouth - with a puzzle posed for the appropriate Buddhist response.

Things begin to spin totally out of control with two more deaths, a cat slaughtered, and a severed hand, all of which indicate a passionate killer. Two detectives are assigned to the case initially after the first death and it takes them a while to overcome their distrust of a female detective who is out of her precinct and has no authority in upstate New York. However, she's got what they need of which she for once can't seem to make sense as there are so many potential community members and non-community members who might be the guilty party or more than one guilty party.

Nancy O'Hara's got what it takes - She has crafted a terrific mystery with plenty of clues slowly revealed and with characters who exude both innocence and guilt. The calmness of the Zen Master and spiritual practices are a fascinating counterpoint to the increasing brutality and tension of the murders, with all beginning to worry about their personal safety as well as who is the killer and and how do these trained professionals, including Alex Sullivan, plan to solve the crimes before more happen? Finely done, with more captivating details, Ms. O'Hara!!!


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