Tuesday, January 22, 2013

First Chapter Review: Death of a Clown by Heather Haven

I had the opportunity to help Heather Haven promote the first book in her humorous P.I. novel, Murder is a Family Business, Book One of the Alvarez Family Murder Mystery series. I also wrote a First Chapter Review of her seasonal mystery, Persephone Cole and the Christmas Killings Conundrum. When she mentioned she had a new book coming out at the end of January, I was eager to take a peek at it. Death of a Clown is a stand alone mystery noir novel set in the early 1940s.

BLURB:  Up and coming performer, Jeri Deane, finds a young clown strangled inside a beloved lion's cage. The town sheriff's threat to close down the Big Top won't stop her from finding his killer. Beneath the spangles and sawdust of the canvas sky, Jeri uncovers deceit, treachery, and secrets more dangerous than any death-defying trick in the circus. Even she has much to hide. If the Big Top survives the season, will she be able to face her own hidden past?

Written by the daughter of real-life circus performers, former Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey trapeze artist and elephant trainer, Heather Haven brings the daily existence of the circus during World War II to life, embellished by her own murderous imagination.

COVER:  I love historical photos, so it was a given this one would catch my eye. This is actually a picture of the author's mother. I love how Haven is using her family history for this novel, so this cover photo is an extra treat.

FIRST CHAPTER: Jeri Deane is practicing her trapeze act when a blood-curdling scream fills the air. She and another circus perfomer approach the lion's cage to find Catalena, a sixteen-year-old assistant knife thrower leaning over the body of Eddie Connors. The youngest of the clowns, Eddie had felt the circus was his new home. A quick view of the surroundings tells Jeri this wasn't an accident.

KEEP READING: Oh my gosh, yes! I love when an author or artist can show her versatility, which is what Haven has done here. Her earlier books are light and humorous with witty, smart female leads. From the opening lines of Death of a Clown, Haven's voice is there, but the climate, the tone, even the manner of description is decidedly different. And it's more than just a sub-genre change. Haven has gotten into this character's head and dissected everything she feels, so that it comes out in a powerful, gripping manner. I was hooked with the first sentence, and wanted to immediately push aside everything else I was reading to continue.

Strong female characters are Haven's trademark. While this novel is unlike what she has written in the past, she does not abandon her brand. Readers of her previous books will find much to enjoy in Death of a Clown. I am going to go out on a limb here and say this is her best work yet. I must find a way to make room for this in my reading schedule. I'm totally hooked!

Coming soon from
 The Wives of Bath Press!

I received the first chapter of this book from the author. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.


Heather Haven said...

I am grateful for Ms Malandrinos' generous words and pleased she liked the work! This novel has been six years in the making, so her comments are quite rewarding.

Cheryl said...

So thrilled to have the chance to read this, Heather. I can't wait to read the rest.