Book of the Day

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Valley of the Shadows
By Stephen Cooper
Seventh Street Books
$15.95
ISBN 978-164506000
Publication Date: September 2019
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Valley of the Shadows

Review by Sharon Marchisello

Valley of the Shadows (Seventh Street Books) is the third installment in the Gus Parker / Alex Mills mystery series by Steven Cooper.

This character-driven whodunnit / police procedural opens with the investigation into the death of wealthy socialite Viveca Canning, shot dead on the floor of her ransacked Phoenix mansion. Despite the disarray, the only thing missing is an original, untitled painting by Salvador Dali. Viveca served on the Board of Directors of the cult-like Church of the Angels Rising, and until a recent change to her will, her entire fortune was earmarked for the church. The revised document leaves the money to her grown children, Bennett (a rising star in the church) and Jillian, who was banished from the church because of her homosexual lifestyle.

The point-of-view alternates between Detective Alex Mills, lead investigator on the Viveca Canning case, and Gus Parker, medical-imaging technician by day and part-time psychic elevated to fame after being cited in a bestselling memoir by his friend and mentor, Beatrice Vossenheimer, and the fact that he’s dating mega-rock star Billie Welch. Despite having little in common, Alex and Gus have learned to respect each other and work together to solve cases by looking at evidence from different angles; over the years, they have become friends.

The personal lives of the main characters are as much a part of this drama as the mystery of who killed Viveca Canning and why. Alex is distracted by his anguish over his beloved wife Kelly’s breast cancer diagnosis. Gus struggles with his feelings about the status of his long-distance relationship with Billie, who is married to her music, and his budding attraction to TV news reporter Aaliyah Jones, who disappears while investigating the underside of the Church of the Angels Rising. Viveca Canning was one of her sources.

Although a bit heavy on the curse words, Cooper’s prose is fresh and peppered with clever metaphors and creative turns of phrase. The reader can feel the sweltering heat and visualize the hauntingly beautiful desert landscape. Even without reading the earlier books in this series, readers will have no problem becoming fully engaged with these three-dimensional characters.

Steven Cooper, a past panelist at Killer Nashville, is the author of Dig Your Grave and Desert Remains. A former investigative reporter, he has received numerous accolades including Emmys and a national Edward R. Murrow award. He has lived all over the country, including the Phoenix area where this series takes place, but currently resides in Atlanta.

Sharon Marchisello (sharonmarchisello.com) is the author of two mysteries published by Sunbury Press, Going Home (2014) and Secrets of the Galapagos (2019). She has also published short stories, travel articles, and a nonfiction book about personal finance, Live Well, Grow Wealth. She earned a Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and is a member of the Atlanta chapter of Sisters in Crime. Residing in Peachtree City, GA, Sharon does volunteer work for the Fayette Humane Society and the Fayette County Master Gardeners, and she writes a blog about personal finance, Countdown to Financial Fitness https://sharonmarchisello.blogspot.com/.