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White Tombs by Christopher Valen
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White Tombs

by Christopher Valen

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Great first mystery novel by Christopher Valen. Mystery takes place in St. Paul, Minnesota. Interesting characters and background of Hispanic community in St. Paul. Central character is Detective John Santana, who grew up in Columbia. Can't wait for the next installment ( )
  firedog | Mar 9, 2010 |
White Tombs by Christopher Valen is a great new crime novel introducing John Santana, homicide detective for the St. Paul Police Department. Originally from Columbia, Santana is a smooth, tough and somewhat mysterious detective that we slowly get to know better over the course of the book. In White Tombs he becomes embroiled in the investigation of three murders - of three members of St. Paul's close-knit Hispanic community - that are connected. But only Santana suspects what the true connection between them might be.

Santana's investigation, set in the snowy, icy cold of a St. Paul winter, takes on increasing complexity as he digs deeper into the lives of those murdered, and those that knew them. The hard, unforgiving edge of winter complements the solitary path John Santana must take in his investigation, and the cold penetrates the novel even as it surrounds his life. The flavor of Hispanic culture also infuses the book, with the occasional Spanish phrases and detail adding to the authenticity; deftly woven into the story without detracting to the non-Spanish reader.

Christopher Valen's direct prose and detailed description is softened with elegant metaphors that elevate his writing above that of a simple dime detective novel. We also get to know detective Santana slowly, his story unfolding over time, which lends a richness and depth to his character that leaves the reader wanting to know more about him. Many of the characters in the book are the kind that one expects in a crime novel - the beautiful woman suspect, the cop you love to hate, the old flame - but they're described nicely and written in believably, and after all - isn't that why we love crime dramas? Occasionally Valen's writing style is a little too choppy, especially at the beginning of the novel - sentences too short, more detail than necessary slowing the flow of the narrative - but on the whole the style works, and makes it a crisp, believable story. This is a solid start to what could be a terrific series of books. There is plenty to mine in Santana's story for future use, and the Hispanic viewpoint presents a fresh way to approach this genre. ( )
  anneflorenzano | Mar 12, 2008 |
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