EIGHT OF SWORDS
Readers who pride themselves on their left-leaning sentiments or those who take an interest in the tarot will cotton to Warren Ritter, the manic-depressive, ex-revolutionary star of Skibbins's first novel. Ritter reads tarot cards on that vestigial epicenter of the counterculture, Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, Calif. And what he sees in the cards for Heather, a nice young woman from the suburbs, scares him: "the Dark One... was coming to get her. And I don't even believe in this New Age crap." The prophecy comes all too true: Heather is kidnapped, and her mother is shot and killed in an apparent attempt to frame Ritter. He sets out to clear his name, even though that name is a fiction; as a former "leader of the Weather Underground," he's been off the grid for some 30 years. The book's real subject is not its fairly transparent mystery but the protagonist's self-congratulatory radicalism. Fine prose and a serviceable plot help offset a main character whose politics won't be to every taste. (Apr. 6)
FYI: Skibbins won the St. Martin's Minotaur/Malice Domestic contest for Best First Traditional Mystery, the first man to do so.
Release date: 00/00/0000