Another Review at MyShelf.Com

Publisher: Mysterious Press
Release Date: August 2003
ISBN: 0892967811
Format Reviewed: Hardcover
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Genre: Mystery
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Kristin Johnson

Reviewer Notes: Review 1, Review 2

Kristin Johnson will release her second book, Christmas Cookies Are For Giving, co-written with Mimi Cummins, in September 2003. Her third book, Ordinary Miracles: My Incredible Spiritual, Artistic and Scientific Journey, co-written with Sir Rupert A.L. Perrin, M.D., will be published by PublishAmerica in 2004.

Cyanide Wells (Review 3)
By Marcia Muller 

     Marcia Muller is the author of Point Deception and the series starring PI Sharon McCone.

     This is a remarkable novel in which greed, corruption, hate and murder take a back seat to the true lives and the complexities of people who enter into troubled relationships.

     After fourteen years, Matthew Lindstrom, accused in the beginning of the book in the disappearance and possible murder of his wife Gwen, receives an anonymous phone call in British Columbia, where he's been running a fishing business and ignoring the photography career he once loved.

     On Gwen's trail in Soledad County, California, he takes up the camera once again as a photographer under an assumed name for the SOLEDAD SPECTRUM, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning newspaper run by hard-nosed former "lesbian prom queen" and former social outcast Carly McGuire, in the city of Cyanide Wells, an apt metaphor for the poison that infects Matt and Carly's lives. That poison takes shape in Carly's life-mate Ardis Coleman, or more accurately, Gwen Lindstrom, whose lesbian nature presumably led her to run from Matt after he pressured her to have children. The irony: Ardis has supposedly given birth to a daughter, Natalie, after an affair that betrayed Carly, who, interestingly, chooses in Ardis a partner not unlike her own insane, power-hungry, controlling mother.

     But typical of the film noir-ish femme fatale Ardis/Gwen, even Natalie's existence is not what it seems. Neither are the murders of Carly and Ardis' gay friends, Ronnie Talbot and Deke Rutherford, whose deaths, on the surface, seem like hate crimes mixed with extortion.

     Distrusting and eventually respecting each other, Matt and Carly track down and confront Ardis, who has absconded with Natalie. They come to face the truth about Ardis' betrayal in the novel's astonishing conclusion, which we arrive at as Muller peels away the layers of the onion to give us a tale of complexity, subtlety and depth.

     The ending does make us feel as if Carly has taken over. Matthew deserves a final section, coming home to British Columbia and letting go of his past. One wonders if he might, after all, return to Cyanide Wells to visit Carly, now that the cyanide has been cleansed from his own life.

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