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Two moon gifAmErica House/Publish America (Paperback) ISBN 1-893162-93-1
"Thank you for our daily deadů"

With a few amens and a tra-la-de-la, the world's first Gospel singing detective segues onto the printed page with Lorie Ham's Murder in Four Part Harmony.

Book: Lorie Ham, Murder in Four Part HarmonyHow else do you expect Alexandra Walters to act? A Gospel singer by trade -- not to mention former special force police officer and all-around good sport -- Alexandra can't allow her former lover and gospel singing heartthrob Jerry Web to be wrongly indicted for murdering his brother. After all, Alexandra still wears the locket that Jerry gave her before she married someone else. Besides the victim (Jerry's brother Tony) specialized in dodgy deals and scams.

Just to make things little more difficult, Jerry's lawyer hires the only decent private investigator in town -- who just happens to be Alexandra's current boyfriend, Stephen Carlucci. Stephen knows all about Alexandra's (apparently still active) crush on Jerry and grows accordingly suspicious of Alexandra's certainty of Jerry's innocence. With reason -- why would a very successful and rich gospel singer like Jerry make Alexandra his first port of call in this particular storm?

To spice up the mix, Ham throws in a few extra characters like Hillary (Tony's wife), Tamara (Tony's daughter), a strange guy known as R.J., and enough cousins, brothers, dads, moms and even more cousins to add the de rigueur plot twists and turns.

In fact, the plot and fabrication of the novel draws the reader's interest and helps to enhance the slight credibility of this very strange detective. Unfortunately for this reader, Ham's writing style stumbles here and there, slowing down the prose and the reader.

Ham doesn't yet generate quite enough ooomph to build tension or maintain the desired atmosphere. The use of first person perspective added to the problem -- Ham can't quite pull it off. Plus, the close resemblance between Alexandra's personal history and the author's bio on the book jacket forced me to wonder if Ham meant the book to be somewhat autobiographical -- what my American wife might call a Mary Sue. It takes real persistence on the part of the reader to ignore this suspicion.

Overall, I wouldn't recommend Murder in Four Part Harmony unless you really like amateur sleuth mysteries. On the other hand, with practice and a good editor, I think Ham will eventually produce very good books.

Stephen John Smith

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