The Turquoise Dagger
by Donald J. Carpenter
(iUniverse / 0-595-43735-1 / July 2007 / 181 pages/ $13.95)
Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for iUBR
I have always been a fan of books set in the American southwest. I grew up there, I live there, and the open skies and colorful history gracefully accommodate all types of stories. One of my favorite choices of diversion are the mysteries, police procedurals, and thrillers set in this area. For that reason alone I looked forward to reading The Turquoise Dagger, by Donald J. Carpenter.
It's a clever story, the basic village mystery transmogrified for our area's particular blend of cultures, architecture, and scenery. Derek and Camellia Collins own the mystery bookstore (of the title) in a small Arizona town, not a major city. This enables the protagonists to know personally many of their fellow citizens, law enforcement personnel, newspaper people, and so forth, and allows them to occasionally take part in their investigations and research. The "private eye against the world" that is a staple of big-city mysteries is not a factor here, and that lets the story to develop as it must.
The story is a good one: a big-time television show that focuses on mysteries comes to town to investigate a cold case, a decade-old double homicide. A large reward is offered to help crack the case (and generate viewership) and the bookstore owner and his graphic designer wife find themselves drawn in as a publicity stunt. As those familiar with the genre would expect, fresh homicides begin piling up, everyone suspects everyone else, and only Derek, the redoubtable mystery bookstore owner, is able to sort out the confusing clues to head the case toward the solution. The story builds to a satisfying climax and concludes with the obligatory unraveling. References to existing authors and mysteries will gratify fans of the genre, though the story is not as densely textured as, for example, John Dunning's Bookman tales, which also are built around bookstores and books. Still, as an example of its type, The Turquoise Dagger is a nicely plotted tale.
It is also, unfortunately, an example of the results of relying on a spell-checker for one's editing. That's a guess, but many inappropriate homophones sneak into the text, and punctuation and stylistic stumbles abound, sometimes in bunches, on every page. Those derailed this reader time after time, making the pleasure of immersing oneself in a fine, puzzling yarn difficult at best. Other readers might sail over these, and if so, they should thoroughly enjoy The Turquoise Dagger.