Skibbins, David – EIGHT OF SWORDS

EIGHT OF SWORDS (Amateur Sleuth-Berkeley, CA-Cont) – VG Skibbins, David – 1st
in series
Thomas Dunne Books, 2005- Hardcover

Warren Ritter, not the name to which he was born, suffers from manic-depression, and is an expert in martial arts and handguns. He has also spent 30 years hiding from the law, and is now a tarot-card reader in Berkeley. Although it began as a cover and easy way to make a cash living, every now and then the cards can't be ignored. Warren does a reading for a young woman who is later kidnapped. When Warren becomes a prime suspect, he is compelled to find her, both by the cards and by his need to keep his past from becoming known.

Skibbins has created a very interesting collection of characters in his debut mystery. The very accurate portrayal of Berkeley and the Bay Area adds an atmosphere that greatly enhances the story. In general, I am not a fan of glorifying those who have broken the law, and I do feel the premise of Warren's becoming involved in this case was a bit weak. What really makes the story work is the characters, good suspense and, at the end, Warren's acknowledgement of what his life and actions has cost him. I ended up caring about Warren and want to see where his life goes from here. I know I'll be back for the next book. This is a very good debut.

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