Acquired Book By: I was selected to review “Heart of Stone” by JKS Communications: A Literary Publicity Firm. JKS is the first publicity firm I started working with when I launched Jorie Loves A Story in August, 2013. I am honoured to continue to work with them now as a 3rd Year Book Blogger.
As a new reviewer for Seventh Street Books, I was quite intrigued by discovering another new author under this imprint for Prometheus Books, as thus far along I have found this imprint to be producing wicked good content for mystery enthusiasts! I requested if it were possible to receive the first book in the series, “Styx & Stone” as this series is in-progress and has a total of four novels thus far released.
I received my complimentary copy of Heart of Stone from the publisher Seventh Street Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Borrowed Books via my Local Library: I had the pleasure of seeking out the two books between ‘Styx & Stone’ and ‘Heart of Stone’ via my local library. ‘No Stone Unturned’ was available quite readily via my local library’s catalogue, however, I had use our ILL (inter-library loan) services to fetch a copy of ‘Stone Cold Dead’ which arrived quite timely, I must say! I was not obliged to post my reflections or reviews on behalf of these novels, as I sought them out for my own edification to understand the series and the character ‘Ellie Stone’ better as I read the first novel and the fourth installment of the Ellie Stone Mysteries. Likewise, I was not compensated for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
A few surprises awaited me as I read the Ellie Stone Mysteries:
[ Reflections on ‘No Stone Unturned’ ]
Part of what makes me think of Jesse Stone* as I am reading an Ellie Stone Mystery is how similar the two are in their habits. Ellie is never far from a hard drink (a habit that nearly cost Jesse Stone his life and career) nor a lit cigarette. Her mannerisms are a reflection of the former but with a bit more softness to her personality than a hardened edge like Jesse maintains. Although, truth be told, Ellie isn’t all roses either – the stories get to her on some level as does the direction of her life – she’s not as happy as she eludes nor pretends.
Ellie goes after stories – she doesn’t wait for the call to find them; if she did, I fear she’d never work as an investigative journalist. Her uphill climb against the men notwithstanding (she’s a bit anti-feminist) Ellie focuses on what she can do to charm the facts out of a scene. Hence why when she returned to a crime scene, she picked up a few clues no one else bothered to seek out. Especially since a bottlecap or a smudge of motor oil would not be at top of a detective’s list of ‘what to find’ on scene!
Yet, I felt pulled out of this novel straight from the beginning – I barely left the initial crime scene search, as I felt I was losing traction fast with the impression I had of Ellie Stone from Styx & Stone – she felt altered in this installment, almost as if the author had changed his writing style in presenting Ellie to those of us who loved her in her debut! Once I lose pace with a character and the manner in which she’s meant to be seen in a series, I become disillusioned. It is quite rare to happen to a series I get wholly enthused about in the opening act of a serial in-progress, but it has happened in the past. Sometimes, despite the joy of discovering a new series, something wans in the execution of successive installments – for me, Ellie felt harder and embittered more than usual in this exploit. I also felt the style was colder somehow – it’s hard to put into words – how I felt when I read this story was ‘off’ from the joy I had with Styx & Stone. I did not want to ‘put’ the original debut down whereas this time round, I was skipping forward to see if I could re-attach myself ‘somewhere’ but found it was impossible.
[ Reflections on ‘Stone Cold Dead’ ]
The plot rankled, however, I appreciated Norma’s entrance as a competent secretary who has a keen thirst for research to aide Ellie Stone! Unfortunately, Norma’s entrance as wonderful as it might be was not enough to anchour me into the story. There was something about the back-story and delivery of Ellie’s pursuing investigation that simply did not root me to the plot and thereby, I had no interest to know what became of the missing girl. Sad as that might be, I was simply not invested.
Part of the problem, too, is there is a certain way to highlight the downward spiral of a character – Ellie and Jesse (i.e. Jesse Stone, again) share this in common; they are both exhibiting self-destructive behaviour patterns, one sought help finally through psychotherapy but the way in which Ellie is being presented consistently through this installment, somehow it felt contrite and predictable. Almost as if she would succumb to this pattern of a lifestyle choice because of who she was and the version of herself she wanted to be most. Where you feel empathy for Jesse, you feel pity for Ellie; not quite the way I think she was meant to be portrayed?
*NOTE: All cross-references to Jesse Stone are based on the Jesse Stone Mystery Movies starring Tom Selleck as I haven’t had the pleasure of reading the book series.
In regards to the style of the Ellie Stone Mysteries – the original version was represented again in short bursts but faded as quickly as it resumed. Leading into my readings of Heart of Stone, I can honestly say I was betwixt and between my final thoughts on how I felt about Ellie Stone.
On a summer day in 1960, two men dive off a lakeside cliff and plummet to their death on the rocks below. By all appearances, this is a tragic accident. Or was it? Ellie Stone jumps in with both feet to investigate, risking her safety, and her heart. “Heart of Stone” is the fourth installment in Ziskin’s Ellie Stone Mysteries.
Two men fall to their deaths from a cliff near a lake in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. Police rule this to be a tragic accident, and that the two victims – one, a stranger to the lake and, the other, a teenage boy from a nearby music camp – didn’t know each other. Stranger than that, Ellie notices her elderly cousin’s station wagon parked 20 yards from the edge of the cliff.
These details cause Ellie to investigate. She sticks her nose where it’s unwanted, rattling nerves and putting herself in jeopardy. Wading into a slippery morass of left-wing, Jewish intellectuals, rabid John Birchers, and charismatic evangelicals, Ellie must navigate old grudges and Cold War passions, lost ideals and betrayed loves.
Places to find the book:
Also by this author: Styx & Stone
Also in this series: Styx & Stone
Published by Seventh Street Books
on 7th June, 2016
Format: Paperback Edition
Ellie Stone Mystery series:
Interesting Trivia: this series has been optioned for a television series!
“Stone Cold Dead” – received a nomination for the 2016 Lefty Award for Best World Mystery Novel. “No Stone Unturned” received a coveted Anthony Award nomination for Best Paperback Original in 2015.
Styx & Stone | No.1 (review)
No Stone Unturned | No.2 | Book Synopsis
Stone Cold Dead | No.3 | Book Synopsis
Heart of Stone | No.4
Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook
Converse via: #EllieStoneMysteries OR #EllieStoneMystery
Read an Excerpt of Heart of Stone on the author’s site!