Title: Enigma (A Russ Morgan Mystery)
Author: Lloyd A. Meeker
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Amazon: Buy Link Enigma (A Russ Morgan Mystery 1)
Publisher Buy Link:
Length: Novella/18K words
Rating: 5 stars
Review Summary: A terrific mystery with a bite, wrapped up in a deceptive package, starring a jaded, somewhat enigmatic PI.
Who’s blackmailing the high-profile televangelist whose son was famously cured of his homosexuality fifteen years ago? Now in 2009, that ought to be ancient history.
It seems there’s no secret to protect, no crime, not even a clear demand for money—just four threatening letters using old Enigma songs from the 90?s. But they’ve got Reverend Howard Richardson spooked.
Proudly fifty and unhappily single, gay PI Russ Morgan has made peace with being a psychic empath, and he’s managed to build a decent life since getting sober. As he uncovers obscene secrets shrouded in seeming righteousness he might have to make peace with a sword of justice that cuts the innocent as deeply as the guilty.
This short mystery took me by surprise as I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. All of the characters were finely drawn, and even those who were clearly designed to make the readers hate them were not over the top.
Enigma is told in the first person by our fifty-year old PI, Rhys (Russ) Morgan. His first meeting with Andrew Kommen, a typical high powered attorney acting on behalf of a rich client, was a thing of beauty as Kommen did his best to show someone (Russ) he felt was well below his station in life i.e. the hired help, about their relative importance in the world. After signing his life away in non disclosure documents Russ was allowed to view the file for the case that he had been grudgingly engaged to solve. His job? Find a blackmailer. But what was not clear was who was the intended victim. Was it the saintly Reverend Howard Richardson, or his son James who had been forced to undergo reparative therapy at 17 to reverse his sexual orientation from gay to heterosexual? Now James was in his early thirties, cured of his dreaded “disease” and happily married with 3 children, so why would someone blackmail him? As for his father, the Reverend Richardson, he lived an exemplary life ministering to his flock, so there didn’t appear to be anything in his life that would attract the attention of a blackmailer.
At first the case seemed deceptively easy – all Russ had to do was find the jigsaw pieces that fit. But he soon discovered that he had been misinformed by Kommen and consequently there were many unanswered questions, which led to testy exchanges with his client, the full of himself Mr. Kommen. When Russ eventually met the Richardsons at his insistence: father, son and their respective wives, it was clear that this family was atypical, and he realized that he would have to dig deep despite the apparent cooperation on the surface from the family.
There were many layers in this story which added to its complexity. The author provided enough backstory on Russ to give a clear picture of his life to date and how his “gift” of a psychic empath affected him in the past and led to his drinking. He had lost the only man he loved because he loved the bottle more. Now 15 years later, he was off the sauce and had re-built his life. He hadn’t had any serious relationships since his breakup and there is none in this book so it’s not a romance. He is, however, attracted to Colin, Kommen’s assistant who is 25 years younger, and throughout the book Russ is very amusing as he talks himself out of pursuing Colin who seems to want to play, although it’s not clear if he’s gay.
The Richardson family members all appeared to be hiding something, but whether it was just that they didn’t want to let a stranger into their lives or they had something sinister to hide, took a while to untangle. I thought that the different personalities were what made this book and the writing so brilliant, and the eventual reveal caught me completely by surprise because although I figured out the culprit from the clues, I didn’t guess the actual story behind the story. The unravelling of the mystery was precise, well executed and the guilty party was played like a violin.
I’m not going to give you any clues about how Russ solved the mystery or the relevance of the song lyrics mentioned in the blurb as I think any mystery deserves to remain just that, a mystery, until it’s solved by the readers. I’ll only say that I hope to meet sweet Colin in future books as this is the first book of a series.
If you like mysteries I highly recommend Enigma because I thought the way it all played out was brilliantly executed.