Comfortably settled in England’s beautiful Lake District, literary scholar Grace Hollister has just sold her first book. She has rented a cozy cottage and is eager to explore her developing romance with ex-jewel thief Peter Fox as she assists at his antique shop, the Rogue’s Gallery. While sorting through papers acquired from Mallow Farm, Grace stumbles upon a letter suggesting the existence of a previously unknown Shelley sonnet, “Sate of the Sphinx.”
Suddenly Grace and Peter find themselves in the midst of chaos: Peter is threatened by a menacing thug from his past; Grace and Peter are suspects in a murder investigation; and someone keeps trying to kill Grace. Can Grace keep herself alive long enough to unravel the mystery of the Sphinx?
Sonnet of the Sphinx is the third outing for Grace Hollister, the American sleuth invented by Diana Killian. The Poetic Death mystery series combines adventure, mystery and romance with literary mysteries. At the heart of each one of these cozy mysteries is Grace, a literary scholar researching the Romantic Poets of the Lake District for her doctoral thesis. Inevitably her research overlaps with crime and she is drawn into the fray. High Rhymes and Misdemeanors focuses on a relic, which may shed new light on the work of Lord Byron. In Verse of the Vampyre, Grace continues her research into Romantic Poets and acts as an advisor on a local production of the play, “The Vampyre,” written by Lord Byron’s doctor.
In Sonnet of the Sphinx, Killian maintains the high quality of writing praised by critics in her earlier works. She manages to maintain the action of the plot and create empathetic characters, realistic settings and intriguing mysteries, while still including substantial literary information about the Lake Poets. She manages to integrate this research so well, that the pacing of the plot is unaffected.
The opening scene of Sonnet of the Sphinx launches readers headlong into the discovery of a letter hinting at the mysterious Shelley sonnet. Coming immediately on the heels of a prologue so different in time and place, this can be rather disjointed for readers; this reviewer needed fifteen or twenty pages to become immersed in the plot after the initial stumble.
On her website, www.girl-detective.net, Killian expresses her preference for mysteries of the ‘30s and ‘40s, an era of style, restraint and smart dialogue. Traces of these classic mysteries fill the pages of Sonnet of the Sphinx, evoking memories of days spent reading Nancy Drew mysteries or The Thin Man. When outcomes are mostly guaranteed, what truly matters is how the author helps readers reach that ending. Killian does it with grace and aplomb.
Diana Killian is one of the nom de plume of writer D.L. Browne. When asked in an interview why she writes under several names, she replied “I just think it helps readers know what sort of book to expect. As Diana Killian, I write romantic suspense; as D.L. Browne I write poetry and the Mary Kelly detective stories.” Browne also has published works as Louise Harris and Colin Dunne.