“Sleight Malice” – by Vicki Tyley

Cover ImageThe morning after a girl’s night in, Desley discovers that the home her friend returned to was burned down overnight. Where is her friend and whose is the unidentified body found in the ruins?

Sleight Malice is Vicki Tyley’s second crime/mystery novel. I reviewed her first novel, Thin Blood in 2012 (review here).

This is a whodunnit that seems to have extended into a whosthatwherearetheyandwhodunnit? The author has decided to make the sleuth an ordinary woman with her own web design business and her client, a newly established ex-detective private-eye. The choice to focus on an amateur rather than a professional usually allows the author to focus a bit more on character development as the protagonist is dropped into a situation that’s bound to provide multiple challenges and conflicts. However, it does come with its own set of issues. I believe it’s harder to make such a story believable as the reader will ask: is it realistic that she could succeed where the professionals would fail? In this case, it helps that Desley is assisted by an ex-detective, but I still don’t think the question is comfortably answered in the affirmative in this story.

Leaving plausibility aside, the story itself is a good one. The story has side-plots, misdirection and sufficient twists to make it an intriguing read and I received the additional benefit of following a story set in the environs of Melbourne and country Victoria, which always adds interest for me. So the plot ends up with a nice tick from me. Definitely worth the read.

There are two main characters: Desley, our inadvertent sleuth, and Fergus Coleman – and ex-detective employing Desley to build the website for his new private-eye business.

OK, let’s get it out of the way immediately. There is sexual tension between the two characters. I’ll let readers find out whether that tension actualises in any meaningful way, but its existence affects how they relate to each other throughout the story.

Desley is a fairly strong-willed and independent character. She has an ex, who has a pretty strong role in the story, but is an impediment rather than a support. I liked the character but could find her annoyingly stubborn and closed to people. It wasn’t an unrealistic state given the obvious hazards of allowing her ex any benefit of the doubt. However, what frustrated me more was that I found her dialogue to be rather clunky and unnatural at times.

Fergus provided a less satisfactory point of view for me as a reader. His character suffered from a couple of things I find particularly frustrating. Firstly, I become quickly uninterested in a character whose observations of another character revolve almost entirely around his/her appearance. Secondly, he has an almost stereotypical view of women which he’s happy to share with the reader at any opportunity. I feel like an alien when I encounter characters like this and I’m not sure if it reflects the author’s lack of understanding of the male psyche or, even more disturbingly, an absolutely accurate view of the male psyche. Either way, it tends to disconnect me from the character and affects my enjoyment of the story.

Other than some issues I had with dialogue, the writing is spot-on and error free. The author is clearly a good writer and I can’t imagine anyone submitting any claims to the contrary.

I liked Sleight Malice. I think some of the choices the author made in characterisation might mean I’m not the ideal target audience. I guess I’m not really a “women are like this”, “men are like that” kind of reader and I’ve never understood every interaction spawning parallel threads of admiration for someone’s appearance.

However, the plot itself is a really good one and definitely worth the effort.

Rating: 3.5/5

Price at the time of review: $3.99 US

Available: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, iTunes and more…

Author site: http://www.vickityley.com/
GoodReads page: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7721799-sleight-malice

This entry was posted in 3.5, Mystery, Novel, Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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