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A Parliament of Owls

A Parliament of Owls is the first of the Samuel Sword Trilogy by R.R. Sherman and involves attorney, astronomer, investigator, and all-around wunderkind Samuel Sword and his cohorts. In the initial portion of the story, Mr. Sword is defending a son of a wealthy friend against a murder charge, but the story soon takes a dark turn when Sword's lovely investigator, Crystal Cross, witnesses a double murder after an evening out. Crystal is still shaken when she, Sword, and his devoted man-servant/assistant, G.D., take a helicopter trip to a friend's private island for a wedding, and Sword is distracted from the upcoming nuptials since he is working with his friend, Detective Terrance Trapp, on the double murder.

After a harrowing chopper flight to the island of Col. Graham Griggs, piloted by Griggs' personal assistant, Amir, the guests are greeted with the abrasive winter weather of an incoming Nor'easter, a dangerous East Coast storm. The guests are unaffected as they are there to celebrate the wedding of Mr. Griggs' niece, Gretchen, to her fiancÚ, David, an FBI agent; however the groom and his best man, Joe, an INS agent, haven't yet arrived. As the storm hits and Gretchen panics that her fiancÚ has still not made it, lines of communication are knocked out and worse yet, things start disappearing; things like peoples' cell phones and laptops. Soon Sword is convinced that someone other than the guests is on the island, making trouble... someone besides Whitey B, Col. Griggs' huge snow leopard and permanent island resident, who often frightens the guests.

As Sword and Trapp attempt to make contact with the mainland to check on the status of the double murder, more mysteries arise on the island. Col. Grigg's housekeeper, Ann Appel, secretly asks to speak with Sword because she has information he needs, then later that evening, before she can disclose the secret, she dies mysteriously. A few hours later, Whitey B appears with an injury to his side, and then later, a mysterious body is found on the island, indeed proving that the guests were not alone... but could the murderer be among them? As the body count continues to rise, Sword and Trapp are determined to keep everyone together as a group to discover just who the murderer is, but the truth may hurt far more than Sword could ever imagine.

I found A Parliament of Owls to be a fairly predictable mystery. I had figured who the double murder bodies belonged to and determined who the murderer was and what his connection was to members of the group pretty early on. I didn't have all the specifics worked out and hadn't figured out all of the players, but it went very similarly to the way I thought it would go. I also think R.R. Sherman could go toe to toe with Stan Lee in the alliteration department (and if you are confused, see Spider-Man for examples). Samuel Sword; Crystal Cross; Terrance Trapp; Jonathon Jones; Rocky Rockville; Helen Hampshire; Ann and Alan Appel. This guy really likes his alliteration. Aside from that, the writing was a bit clunky, meaning sometimes the sentence structure could have been cleaner. At times, I found myself having to read a sentence two or three times to get the meaning, because there was so much information jammed into one sentence. I also wasn't too crazy about Sword as a character - or his companions. Sword, himself, seems to be a renaissance man; he does it all and is a bit unbelievable and unrelatable because of it. Crystal Cross is his lovely assistant that started off as a hooker he saves from the street, and, now, she's his assistant who drives a Jaguar and secretly loves Sword from afar. Then there's G.D., the Indian man Sword and company saved in the first Gulf War. He went from being a teacher in the Middle East to being Sword's personal dry-cleaning retrieval lackey. Really? Have some pride, G.D. There's just an air of condescension about some the characters in general.

While it wasn't my favorite, I think R.R. Sherman is going for something along the lines of the old mysteries from Agatha Christie. He tries to cram a lot of backstory in and obviously has two more stories planned in this trilogy, so perhaps that's part of it; he's got so much to say in a short span of pages. I wish there was a place that you could read an excerpt online to get a feel for whether the book is something you'd like, but unfortunately, I didn't see one.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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