Rose’s prose adapts wonderfully to the setting. It is tense and terse in encounters and chase sequences, but also languid and evocative describing Abby’s birding treks. The clues are also nicely detailed and placed, though Rose splits the focus, especially later in the novel, between this engaging, upsetting mystery and Abby’s coping with grief and loss. The cult rituals—lit candles, exotic meat, flowing tunics, rhythmic dance as backdrop to sex on an altar—are familiar but still creepy, and the interplay between Abby and her cohort often thoughtful, even tender, building the reader engagement in the team and their lives that it takes to build a series upon.
The steps of the investigation balance the everyday mundanity of policework and the tense anticipation of more active steps. “Don’t be a hero,” Abby’s police chief warns her, in the buildup to one confrontation with the Artemisians, and the question of what she’ll do feels as pressing as what to expect from her targets. Readers who prefer swift pacing should be aware that Rose digs deep into Abby’s relationships during this buildup, though even this at-times touching material ultimately feeds the suspense: “One distracted moment,” she muses, “could mean someone getting hurt or even killed.” This promising series starter offers detection and character depth.
Takeaway: A character-rich mystery series starter taking on the illegal trade in endangered animals.
Great for fans of: Will Staples’s Animals, Brian Klingborg’s Wild Prey.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
“Detective Abigail Fiorelli expertly examines links between human culpability and the natural world, tugging on the chain of causality for weakness and also for strength. Volta Rose’s debut novel, EYE OF THE OCELOT, is an eye-opener indeed.”
“Volta Rose has a future in the mystery genre. This was such a well-done novel. I loved getting to know the detective and seeing the romance elements go forward. I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery. The characters were perfect. I hope there is more in this series.”
Midwest Book Review
Eye of the Ocelot by Volta Rose
Green Heart Books
Eye of the Ocelot seamlessly blends mystery and romance in the first book of the Abigail Fiorelli series. Set in Cape Cod and steeped with the ambitions and efforts of a woman who is both flawed and effective as an individual and as a detective, Eye of the Ocelot sports a mercurial countenance that opens with childhood discoveries.
Volta Rose arbors the ability to create a compelling story that avoids the usual methods of mystery to draw readers into a different set of purposes, whether it is a family confrontation with illness, endangered species encounters and appreciation, or a series of challenges that bring Cape Cod and Abigail to life.
From the death of Dian Fossey and her mission to help her beloved apes which leads her to become Abby's heroine to the adult Abby's realization of bigger-picture thinking, readers receive a mystery more steeped in environmental issues and social revelation than the usual formula genre read offers.
Rose's descriptions of Abby's growth process are inviting and thought-provoking adjuncts to the intrigue: "Abby felt she could not sustain it, and had a vision of the arc of her own life: long, awake, and alive. She became acutely aware of the sound of a killdeer’s lonely keening, the salty scent of the sea breeze, the wind in her hair, and moving with the rhythm of the undulating dune grass bending in the wind. Chris’s touch brought a clear picture to her mind: a perfect circle she’d recently seen etched into the surface of the sand by a sharp tip of dune grass, turned round and round the base of its stem by the oscillating ocean breeze."
Few mysteries can claim such attention to building a sense of environmental understanding and purpose. Fewer can maintain an effort to bring their characters into touch with not only their surroundings, but their broader life purposes and the effects of their actions.
There's plenty of suspenseful action, ranging from a too-close encounter at the Three Sisters Lighthouse to unusual cop behaviors, case breakthroughs, and confrontations that bring tenacious detective Abigail Fiorelli to the brink of death.
Her journey will delight not just avid mystery readers, who will readily recognize the difference in quality between this blend of environmental and social examination and the usual genre story, but will reach audiences who usually eschew mysteries for their too-predictable plots.
Libraries seeking exceptional reads based as much on environmental discovery and personal recovery from loss and trauma as on a ruthless international organization's purposes will find Eye of the Ocelot satisfyingly unique and original in its approach, character-building, and blend of romance, social understanding, and intrigue. —D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review