Sex Lies Murder
WA McLeod (2014)
Reviewed by F.T. Donereau for Rebecca’s Reads (5/14)
“Sex Lies Murder” by Allan McLeod is a novel etched through and covered all over with the flavor of intrigue, danger, and the doings of high powered people moving within large and strange worlds. Mr. McLeod opens his novel with explanations of people and atmosphere's that spike the reader’s interest, setting a plate that gains your attention and lets you feel the heart of the book immediately. This is not a trick just anyone can do. But it is a mark that all great novels share. Without question, right from the start of this work, you know you are going to be taken on a thrill ride involving high echelon types, big world scenarios with dark natures.
Disappearances, death, shady tastes of big banking, back room politics, drug cartels nasty business, are all alive here in these pages. You have a mystery wrapped in a thriller. Investigative journalist Paige Harrington is an outsider invited in to dig deeper. The traps of working her way through the actions of powerful people easily become the proverbial minefield. Paige is a beauty, a former world class model, but she is not simply a centerpiece to be adored, a companion for some hardboiled type man who will get everything done with some small assistance from her. She is the main one, with the brains and edge, the wherewithal to swim through the swamp and triumph. She is hardly perfect. And for that we owe the author great thanks. A perfect narrator, saving everyone, almost always amounts to cliché. That it is avoided here lends a proper amount of gravitas to the proceedings. It also allows our blood to race, turning pages, wanting to know what's next, failure or good ends. In short, it makes a mystery worth investing in, as opposed to one of which all outcomes feel preordained.One of my favorite things about “Sex Lies Murder” is the creation of so many strong and diverse female characters. I do not say it is true, but I for one would not be surprised if I found out one day that Allan McLeod was the nom de plume of some bright woman with experience in one police or government agency or another. How in the world has Mr. McLeod, a full blooded man, I assume, managed to give us such characters as Mz. Harrington and Molly Ogden and Angela Parsons, to name a select few. The answer must simply be that he has paid attention, and knows women well enough from the inside to create full dimensional beings, actual people, flawed and smart and desperate and sometimes full of the success of failure. It is a delight to see women rendered as they should be: real and true, not flat, albeit beautiful, ornaments of cardboard. It really brings another tic of delight to this interesting novel. You get to know these characters as human and the worlds lived here as actual, visceral things. With a great mystery thriller on top of that you get the gift of a magnificent, page turning story, a near epic bouncing at lightning speed, keeping the eyes open and the mind sparking like the pistons of a fine tuned sports car.
Everything does not turn out perfect in this book. Again, thank you for that Allan McLeod. It can be hard to take when bad things happen to characters you are invested in, but it certainly helps sustain the realism of the tale. Another fine accomplishment of this author is the prose employed here. It is not a stylized thing so much as a diamond cut straight forward approach that makes the whole sing much better than any flowery, metaphor-laden structure would. What I mean is the blunt, rock hard writing employed is blessedly without pretension. And that allows the story to move through labyrinths of criminality and high finance without bogging down. That is the key to fine writing. Because we have it here wrapped around an extraordinarily good story, it makes for a perfect combination.If you do buy “Sex Lies Murder,” and really, I recommend you do, block some serious time off in an evening for it. That will be a necessity, believe me, because once you sit and begin it, you won't want to stop.