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Styx & Stone
by James W. Ziskin
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The dark voice of noir set in New York, not the streets of Los Angeles, and the dark underbelly of the populace replaced with respectable, distinguished academics and small town citizens peaks curiosity. All three of Ziskin’s novels offer complex plots and characters which move the reader from page to page. But what keeps those enthralled with his work is not on the surface. What pulls someone after finishing Styx and Stone to reach for No Stone Unturned, and then Cold Stone Dead? James W. Ziskin has an extraordinary understanding, gift and use of language.
Review by Le Coeur de l'Artiste http://www.djadamson.com/le-coeur-de-lartiste
Styx and Stone by James W. Ziskin is a 2013 Seventh Street Books publication.
This is the first book in the Ellie Stone series set in the 1960’s. Ellie is a newspaper reporter, and is considered a ‘modern girl’, meaning she is not married and has a career, who might enjoy a party or two. But, she quickly turns into an amateur detective when her father is attacked in his apartment, leaving him comatose.
I had no idea what to expect when I started this series, but I knew one of the books in this series had been nominated for an Edgar. However, I must admit, I am still very pleasantly surprised by how good this book is.
The author cleverly weaves intellectual politics, backstabbing, and the jockeying for positions, by tenured professors, which had a very authentic ring to it, as well as incorporating the study and symbolisms of Dante, into a compelling whodunit. The story shifts into something far more serious with huge ramifications, but is also a poignant tale of family dynamics and crushing loss.
Ellie is definitely ahead of her time, accepting her unorthodox choices which goes against the traditional roles for women in 1960, but is also melancholy at times, as she copes with deep regret over the rift with her father, and the disappointment they both endure.
I loved the small details that, upon first glance, may not have seemed important, suddenly taking on greater significance, in one way or another. So, while on the surface, the story is a twisty and surprising mystery, it has a much deeper depth to it than I first realized.
I have already checked out the other books in this series and have signed up to review an ARC of the latest installment. I’m looking forward to seeing how Ellie’s character develops moving forward.
Ellie Stone is a professed modern girl in 1960s' New York City, playing by her own rules and breaking boundaries while searching for a killer among the renowned scholars in Columbia University's Italian Department. "If you were a man, you'd make a good detective." Ellie Stone is sure that Sgt. McKeever meant that as a compliment, but that identity-a girl wanting to do a man's job-has throttled her for too long. It's 1960, and Ellie doesn't want to blaze any trails for women; she just wants to be a reporter, one who doesn't need to swat hands off her behind at every turn. Adrift in her career, Ellie is back in New York City after receiving news that her estranged father, a renowned Dante scholar and distinguished professor, is near death after a savage bludgeoning in his home. The police suspect a routine burglary, but Ellie has her doubts. When a second attempt is made on her father's life, in the form of an "accident" in the hospital's ICU, Ellie's suspicions are confirmed. Then another professor turns up dead, and Ellie's investigation turns to her father's university colleagues, their ambitions, jealousies, and secret lives. Ellie embarks on a thorny journey of discovery and reconciliation, as she pursues an investigation that offers her both a chance at redemption in her father's eyes, and the risk of losing him forever.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.6 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 21st Century
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Upon arrival she soon learns that it was not a stroke or a heart attack that put her father in the hospital. He was violently assaulted and his home office and library was ransacked. This occurred just days after her brother’s grave was severely vandalized. While the police believe the events are not related and the assault on her father, a renowned Dante scholar and esteemed professor, was nothing more than a random burglary, Ellie has her doubts. Especially since another professor, well known to her father and a colleague, died in somewhat mystery circumstances in close proximity time wise to the assault on her father.
That fact, what happened to her brother’s grave, the very specific damage in her father’s apartment, and more makes Ellie question the police investigation from the start. Ellie considers herself a “modern woman” and has no problem with asking questions and pushing for answers when she isn’t thinking about the past or enjoying the pleasures of the present. She drinks, she smokes, she likes a good time with a man who strikes her fancy, and Ellie won’t put up with nonsense from others.
Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery is the start of a series and a good one. While all the characters are complicated in this tale to some degree (no cookie cutter cardboard cutouts need apply), Ellie Stone is exceedingly complicated. There is depth and nuance to this character that is rarely found in the first novel of a series. She also has a subtle sarcastic streak that appealed very much to this reader.
While historical mysteries are not my usual reading material, I thoroughly enjoyed Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery. A complicated tale with characters of depth and nuance, the mystery itself was a difficult one to solve kept this reader engaged, and the read was flat out very entertaining on all levels. Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery was a very good book and is strongly recommended.
Styx & Stone: An Ellie Stone Mystery
James W. Ziskin
Seventh Street Books
Paperback (also available as an eBook)
Material supplied by the good folks of the Dallas Public Library System.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2018 ( )