Elizabeth Campbell is an attorney in a non-profit legal clinic that is always fighting for funds and grants. She is given the task of auditing three old cases that were tried by the District Attorney’s major Crimes Division, to ensure they have been dealt with correctly. This follows the discovery of a number of cases of corruption elsewhere in the legal system and the DA wants to demonstrate that he is clean as he runs for Governor.
One of the cases Elizabeth audits has Raymond, a simple man with a low IQ, found guilty of a murder. He has confessed to this murder and Elizabeth believes he was not clever enough to have carried it out. She thus feels unable to sign off on the audit until she has done some more investigation. She finds Father Parker, a Catholic priest, to help her and the story details her investigative journey to prove the innocence of the man. The police are insistent that he is guilty and Detective Grace Donovan and Elizabeth cross paths a number of times.
Valden: Elizabeth has had a wealthy upbringing and is the daughter of an attorney who runs his own very profitable practice. She has always gone her own way. Whilst all her friends and colleagues have gone into private practice and thus earn large salaries, she has taken a different route. She similarly goes her own way with her investigation into proving Raymond’s innocence. She follows her instincts, even though at times this is beyond both her professional limits and common sense. I actually had my head in my hands twice saying “Oh no!”
Grace Donovan needs a mention here if only to say that Mathieu spends some time with Grace’s character and her relationship with her father. She doesn’t really follow up on Grace in the story and the character arc seems to stall after the beginning. I am hoping that it will mean Grace gets her own storyline in a sequel (she is both sexy and cranky!).
Erin: For me, the character of Elizabeth was equally appealing and frustrating! I love that Mathieu has a personal history in the legal field, as this really adds authenticity to Elizabeth and what she does throughout the story. Elizabeth pushes every professional boundary possible (and past them at times), but somehow this just adds to her likeability… her dogged approach to finding the answer she is seeking is something I really connected with.
The other main characters – Grace, Father Parker and Raymond – are all written in a believable way. We learn enough about their personalities and motivations to make the story easy to follow, but not so much that we spend time on unnecessary detail. The minor characters are all well written and filled out sufficiently that they also add to the storyline.
The Writing Style
Valden: Mathieu has taken a very clever approach to this mystery. The story could be very dark. Yes, it is dark in places and there is some violence. But somehow, she manufactures a lightness that takes the grimness of some of the facts and the blackness of some of the locations away. She has written it so well that I found the frightening parts scary, and if you are afraid of the dark you might want to read this in the daylight. That said, her lightness makes you smile. For example, at the beginning when she describes the run-down office Elizabeth works in, it has a chair called Black Devil that flips the unwary out of it, a photocopier that growls and a pseudo pet rat called Fred living in the alley outside.
Erin: Personally I found the pace a little slow at the start, but it built nicely, and once we got closer to the answer, the pace was perfect. Be prepared to read the last third of the book in one go, because you won’t want to put it down!!
Valden: I am not a great mystery reader as I much prefer the all-out action of a thriller, but this book surprised me. The romance has what Sheena terms ‘incidental lesbians’. These are lesbian characters that are not central to the story. I can see books like this eventually breaking into the mainstream book market. It is very well written and kept me turning the pages to the end.
Erin: I loved that this book was more than what I was expecting. I went in thinking it would be a Da Vinci Code type of story, but there is a different layer to this. The relationship between Elizabeth and Grace is totally not crucial to the story either, which is a nice balance for a book like this I think. Definitely more a mystery than a thriller, but a worthy read nonetheless.
Erin and Valden: We didn’t mind it, but some readers might be put off by the descriptions of violence and abuse, particularly with regards to the Catholic Church.
Valden: I loved that this book has so many twists and turns and that your best guess is likely to be wrong. You may luck in and work out who is doing what, but I suspect you will have no idea why. You will be scared, you will laugh out loud and you will be like me, waiting for a sequel.
Erin: Such a compelling read. Mathieu has written an exceptional debut novel full of intrigue, interesting characters and the kind of storyline that keeps you guessing right through until the end. Any hint of romance is secondary to a mystery/thriller plot that involves history, religion and the legal system. A definite must read if you have enjoyed mainstream murder mysteries with religious or historical undertones.
Excerpt from Sins of our Fathers by A Rose Mathieu
“Can you tie the roast while I finish here?”
She measured out a sizeable piece of butcher’s twine resting next to the small piece of meat and tied a bow around the roast like a Christmas present. “Now what?”
He looked over to inspect her work. “What is that!”
“What do you mean WHAT? We aren’t giving it away as a gift. It needs to hold the stuffing in.” He stormed over and untied Elizabeth’s bow and set about retying the roast. “You’re hopeless.”
“How was I supposed to know? You said tie the roast, so I tied—” She froze mid-sentence, her gesturing hand still suspended in midair.
“Forget it. No harm done.” Michael’s annoyance quickly faded.
“No, don’t you see? His mother said he couldn’t even tie his own shoes.” Elizabeth recalled the reports in the file. “Then how could he have tied up his victim?”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781626398733
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
A Rose Mathieu Online
Note: We received a free review copy of Sins of our Fathers by A Rose Mathieu. No money was exchanged for this review. We will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion we refuse to review books.