I always think it’s a treat when an expert in a particular field becomes an author, and a special treat when said expert/author understands how to incorporate their expertise into a story without absolutely inundating the audience with the minutia of their field. Sheila Lowe’s Dead Letters, the latest installment in her Forensic Handwriting series is one such special treat.
Dead Letters alternates between Claudia Rose, a professional handwriting analyst like Lowe herself, and her niece Monica Bennett as they are pulled into a plot of international proportions after Monica goes missing in Egypt and Claudia begins her pursuit.
Pulse pounding from start to finish, this was described as a “cozy mystery” when I picked it up, but if you’re looking for gentle humor, quirky heroines, and low stakes you might want to look elsewhere. The stakes here start high, with a niece missing on the other side of the world, feel believably dire, and only get higher as the pages turn and the plot thickens.
This is the Lowe’s eighth book centering on Claudia Rose, her crime-solving forensic handwriting expert every-woman, and Claudia’s family, and the time put into these characters is obvious. Even a newcomer to the series like myself can feel and see that there’s more to these people and their entanglements than simply aunt, niece, husband, brother, father etc. That said, the weight of their history should not be viewed as a barrier for entry to other prospective new readers—the obvious depth to these character relationships and casually referenced past adventures neither confuse nor detract from the story being told in Dead Letters.
All in all a satisfying thriller full of memorable characters, rich settings, and a tightly paced plot, Dead Letters is exactly the kind of novel to fill out your end of summer reading list.