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Review: ‘The Stone Man Mysteries Book One: Stone Cold’

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The Stone Man Mysteries Book 1: Stone Cold
Written by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
Art by Orion Zangara
Lerner Publishing
Teen

Craig McGowan, a teen with no prospects in 1930s Edinburgh, Scotland, goes to the roof of a local church to end it all. He is stopped by Silex, a demon trapped on the roof as a stone gargoyle. Despite being unable to leave, Silex runs a detective agency, working to solve crimes that happened in the city. The most recent is a mysterious string of murders, and Craig is enlisted to help find the culprit.

Stone-Man-1-Stone-Cold1Stone Man Mysteries is a period mystery series with an unusual pair of detectives. Craig was thrown out of his home in Fife by his drunken father and came to Edinburgh to find work. He is intelligent and quick-witted, being able to improvise on the spot, but doesn’t always think before he speaks. He is eager to work when given the opportunity, wanting to prove his worth by gathering all the information he can even if he doesn’t completely understand its importance.

Silex, who is referred to as the “Stone Man” more often by the characters, is a sort of armchair detective, though not by choice. Once a demon intent on destroying humanity, he is now sealed to the roof of the church, trying to redeem himself by solving crimes. He can be impatient with Craig, especially at the beginning, often calling him “daft” or a “git,” but warms up to him as Craig learns the ropes.

Like Sherlock Holmes, Silex already has a network of informants, who are coordinated by the priest of the church, Father Harris. Street urchins, tradesmen, servants, and church volunteers provide information in exchange for food and money, though these folk believe they are working for a foreigner. Only Craig and Father Harris know the truth about Silex.

StoneCold_13The mystery itself is well constructed. The clues are laid out, and there are some nice red herrings and twists that keep you guessing. The culprit doesn’t turn out to be as much of a surprise as does the motive. The story is self contained but hints at an overarching arc that will tie the series together.

The story itself gets a little dark in content beyond the murders but doesn’t show anything graphic. The dialogue does use some Scottish slang, but it doesn’t try to portray everyone with an accent, making the characters easy to understand overall. The art reflects the story. It is all black and white, with a scratchy, unfinished feel. The crosshatching that dominates the art emphasizes the cold, rainy, and somber mood set by the story.

Stone Cold is a good start to the Stone Man Mysteries. It balances the introduction of the characters and world with the mystery, with neither feeling intrusive on the other. Readers who like mysteries and don’t mind a darker slant to them will enjoy this first volume.

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Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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