INKSLINGERS BALL, Sheila Lowe’s fifth Forensic Handwriting Mystery, grabs your attention from the opening scene. The phone rings at 2:33 a.m., and Joel Jovanic, Lead Homicide Detective with the LAPD, must leave girlfriend Claudia Rose’s warm bed to investigate a chilling crime; the brutal death of a young teenage girl. You can sense his horror and determination to solve “this one” and you are right there beside him.
Flashing back three days, Lowe meticulously leads her readers through a labyrinth of events to the gruesome discovery, beginning innocently enough with the introduction of a character from a previous novel. Annabelle Giordana, a traumatized teen which Claudia helped through graphology in WRITTEN IN BLOOD, is now living temporarily with Claudia. Much improved, she still has remnants of rebellion that work their way to the surface now and then. They’re usually harmless – pouting or sulking when she doesn’t get her way – but this time, Annabelle gets in way over her head.
She meets up with a young street walker from her past. Angel – pierced, tattooed, and spouting gutter language – soon has Annabelle straying from the straight and narrow, enticing the underage girl to get a “sugar skull” tattoo just like hers. Annabelle succumbs. Soon she is boozed up, laid out in an old van with a strange man laying ink in a very private area, and totally unaware of the dark alley Angel has started her down. It’s an alley full of death and darkness with fingers reaching way into the past.
Several seemingly unrelated murders keep Jovanic’s team busy leading up to and beyond the opening crime. They investigate, interview, access police data bases, and soon connections appear. In the world of ink and piercing, it’s hard to tell what is innocent and what is deadly. Artistic ink covers jealous and vengeful hearts. It also hides a multitude of other crimes that the police seem powerless to stop.
The final climax is shocking. Readers may be prepared for something similar, but when this scene takes place, jaws will drop. The reverberations and mop-up will eventually bring satisfaction, although one small aspect may be open for question to some legal purists. INKSLINGERS BALL is definitely an outstanding addition to the series.
Lowe has departed from her usual single person POV in this novel. Forensic handwriting specialist, Claudia Rose, is very much a presence in INKSLINGERS BALL, working on her own assignments, teaching Annabelle (and readers) about the marvels of handwriting analysis, and assisting Det. Jovanic with his cases. It’s intriguing to see the different ways her profession (as well as the author’s) can be used to help law enforcement. But Annabelle and Jovanic get their own “say” as well.
And happily, Lowe has mastered the lingo of both the 15-year-old girl and the hardened cop. Their respective conversations are credible, and true to the ear. With Jovanic, readers are brought right into the police station and the patrol car. Crime scene protocol and technology are explained smoothly in both dialogue and description, making this book “almost” a police procedural.
With Annabelle and her trash-talking friends, the reader never feels he’s being patronized. The well-thought-out choices of words, attitudes and actions won’t age, even after the book has been out a while. It’s a tough task to accomplish, but here, very handily done.
The rest of Lowe’s writing is immaculate. She keeps the story moving quickly, building tension steadily with cliff hangers that don’t leave readers hanging too long, and evidence that appears in good time and is not held for chapters to sustain a false suspense. Her descriptions are concise but evocative; she never wastes words. Some readers may not like the instances of profanity, but it is not gratuitous and fits the characters’ personas. On the whole, INKSLINGERS BALL is a very enjoyable read.
INKSLINGERS BALL (as well as Sheila Lowe’s other Forensic Handwriting Mysteries) are available on Kindle and in print at Amazon.com.
Like Claudia Rose, Sheila Lowe is a court-qualified handwriting expert who testifies in forensic cases. The author of “Handwriting of the Famous & Infamous,” and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Handwriting Analysis,” her analyses of celebrity handwritings have appeared in Time, Teen People, and Mademoiselle. Her articles on Personality Profiling and Handwriting Analysis for the Attorney have been published in several bar association magazines. Her award-winning Handwriting Analyzer software is used around the world and her profiles help uncover important information in background checks and pre-employment screening. She enjoys analyzing handwriting for individuals, too, helping them understand themselves and others better.
For more information on Sheila, please visit her personal website http://www.sheilalowe.com .