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Precious jewels and murder form the basis of this crackerjack whodunit.

Book Review: Blood Opal by Carole Sutton

Precious jewels symbolize hidden treasures of knowledge or truth, along with profane love and transient riches. Opals may be either precious or semi-precious, depending on their quality. Traditionally, opals represent fidelity, religious fervor, prayers and assurance. Opals are translucent silicas, coming in many different colors. The common opal is milky in color, while the so-called black opal is really a very dark green. Like their name, fire opals reflect blazing colors.

The crimson color of the blood opal is symbolic of enmity, and absorbs the power or life force of its foe, rendering him or her harmless unto death.

Carole Sutton’s latest whodunit takes the symbolic aspects of precious jewels – hidden treasure, truth, profane love, greed – and combines them with the malevolence of the blood opal into a gripping murder mystery.

The novel – called Blood Opal – goes like this: Patricia Germaine – a.k.a. “Pug” – arrives home, expecting everything to be normal… well, as normal as they can be. You see Pug’s husband is somewhat less than a knight in shining armor. In fact, he’s an unfaithful jerk. As she walks through the front door of her house, Pug is greeted by what appears to be a scene right out of a disaster movie. The interior of her house looks as if a tornado has ripped through it.
If that’s not bad enough, Pug discovers her husband – whose name is Dom – in the embrace of another woman. What’s more, her husband and his lover are dead. Blood is everywhere. There’s no doubt in Pug’s mind that both people were viciously murdered.

The police arrive. Their conclusion is the same as Pug’s. Murder. Just when it looks like things can’t get any worse, they do. Not only has Pug’s murdered husband been adulterous, he has also left her penniless. Pug’s only remaining possessions are a sailboat and her dog.

Pug decides to start over. She picks up her dog and sails away. However, starting over is always as simple as it seems. The thugs who murdered her husband wanted something he had. When he didn’t come across with it, they killed him. Then they ransacked the house looking for it. They didn’t find it.

They think Pug has what they want. So they follow her. Bodies begin hitting the floor. Detectives Kathryn Sinclair and Ed Buchanan investigate. And everything – tension, murder, and skulduggery – ramps up and takes off. The story whirls like a dervish as the plot unfolds.

Carole Sutton utilizes rich dialogue to flesh out her characters, which means the good guys are good, and the bad guys are horrible. And then there are the betwixt and between characters, the ones that fit somewhere in the middle. Are they good or are they bad? The reader keeps reading to find out.

Blood Opal’s plot is simple and complex. Simple in the sense that it keeps increasing the tension, and complex because – like the Gordian Knot – the reader can’t figure where it will end. Fortunately, Sutton maintains control over the proceedings, and doesn’t allow the plot to mutate into an unmanageable monster. Finesse and carefully crafted style prevail over what might have been a disaster in a less capable author’s hands.

In short, Sutton has the one talent a novelist must have. She knows how to tell a story. And that ability – storytelling – is almost as rare as blood opals. And just as precious.

On the Read-O-Meter, which ranges from 1 star (lousy) to 5 stars (awfully good), Blood Opal hemorrhages 5 stars. If you like whodunits, then Blood Opal is one you won’t want to miss.

About Randall Radic

Left Coast author and writer. Author of numerous true crime books written under the pen-name of John Lee Brook. Former music contributor at Huff Post.

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