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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:three and a half moon gifSt. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-20299-7
Edgar, Agatha and Anthony award nominee Martha C. Lawrence combines the normal and paranormal in the fifth installment of her Elizabeth Chase Mystery series, Ashes of Aries.

Book: martha c lawrence, ashes of ariesPrivate Investigator Elizabeth Chase faces off against a homicidal arsonist after police detective Bruce Loebman reluctantly draws her into a kidnapping investigation. Like a Houdini in training, the four-year-old semi-autistic son of San Diego telecommunications mogul Frank Fielding disappeared without a sound from his own back yard -- a gated, parent-guarded location.

Upon the paranormal PI's first visit to the kidnapping scene, she smells smoke. But Elizabeth, who strives to put meaning to her astro-sightings, can't explain the smoky forecast until a wildfire sweeps across the land, directly toward the Fielding's estate and the nearby home of Elizabeth's parents.

The fire further complicates the crime investigation and Elizabeth's life as she discovers the depth of her feelings for her family and relives the loss for her recently killed fiancÚ. She also struggles with her psychic gift, trying to increase her understanding of all she sees. Sequoia, a Luiseno Indian and Elizabeth's shaman-mentor and friend, teaches her to harness the power from the natural world. He appears -- sometimes as a spirit, figment of her imagination or in the flesh -- just when she needs him most. (If only all men had that ability!)

Throughout the investigation Elizabeth strives against the wind and against people's misconceptions about her insights. As the case becomes more complicated and time runs out for the missing child, her frustrated colleagues target Elizabeth and her unorthodox approach to detection for blame. Elizabeth's two Ph.D.s from Stanford and her reputation as a PI don't turn skeptic coworkers into believers, but they do help.

Lawrence portrays the paranormal in a most convincing manner and does much to elevate psychic PIs from woo-woo to legit. Her writing, strong and authoritative, obviously pours from an experienced, intelligent mind. Lawrence admits to her own psychic encounters. Couple that with a background in astrology and book editing, and the results translate into very well-crafted suspense.

Readers and fans rejoice. Lawrence creates a high drama ending that melds families, saves lives, solves crimes and leaves an euphoric afterglow that isn't fattening, hazardous to your health or illegal.

Dawn Goldsmith

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