7 August 2016

Review #500: Heart of Stone (Ellie Stone Mysteries #4) by James W. Ziskin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

----Albert Einstein

James W. Ziskin, an American author, has penned a riveting thriller in his new book, Heart of Stone which marks as the fourth book in the Ellie Stone Mysteries series. The book opens with the protagonist poking her nosy nose or rather say, investigate the death of a man and a teenage boy, who died apparently from diving off the cliff in Adirondack lake, as per the local sheriff's initial observations, but this investigation also makes the protagonist fall in a passionate summer romance with one of her childhood friends.


In the waning days of a lazy August holiday, Ellie Stone is enjoying a bright Adirondack-lake morning. Nearby, two men plummet to their deaths just a few feet short of the water of a dangerous diving pool. A tragic accident, it seems. But the state police quickly establish that the two victims--one, a stranger to the lake and, the other, a teenaged boy from a nearby music camp--surely didn't know each other. That anomaly is strange enough, but what really perplexes Ellie is the out-of-place station wagon parked twenty yards from the edge of the cliff.

Wading into a slippery morass of fellow travelers, free-love intellectuals, rabid John Birchers, and charismatic evangelicals, Ellie must navigate old grudges and Cold War passions, lost ideals and betrayed loves. She sticks her nose where it's unwanted, rattling nerves and putting herself in jeopardy. But this time, it's her heart that's at risk.

Ellie Stone, the reporter from a newspaper, is sun tanning, while her Aunt Lena is taking a nude swim into the Adirondack lake when the newbie local chief of police, Tiny Terwilliger, asks for Ellie to photograph the bodies of two divers, one man and a teenage boy. The chief rules out that their deaths might have occurred due to a diving accident, but Ellie finds so many things out of order while photographing the two bodies, especially the station wagon few feet from the cliff where the bodies were found. Luckily for Ellie, she is pulled into the camp lifestyle of non-stop music, dance and free wine in the Arcadia Lodge , when her childhood friends invite her over dinner, and that is where, she meets the charming man, Issac. Their instant attraction for one another draws her into a passionate love affair but in due time, Issac's lies and the stories about a group of left-wing Jewish intellectuals leave Ellie digging for clues behind the tragic death of two human lives. So amidst of love and hate and fighting with Issac, keeps Ellie looking for the truth behind the deaths.

Having never before read an Ellie Stone Mysteries makes me really sad, as Ellie turned out to be an exceptional and fearless heroine who is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, even though the statistics says otherwise, nothing could be missed from her sharp brain and eyes. I definitely need to read the previous books, which I guess, would be equally enthralling. And what really surprises me is the word "Stone" from Ellie's surname is common in the titles of the books from this series. And not to mention, the book's cover image has arrested the summer feel of a lake, sun tanning and swimming quite strikingly, that enchanted me to open the book and read the story behind its alluring cover.

The author's writing style is coherent and is laced with suspense and emotions that promises for a fulfilling read for the readers. The narrative is both intriguing and emotional that will keep the readers gripped to the very core of the story. Right from the very start, the story will immediately pull in the readers into its very heart, as the author narrates the story with a visual angle that is both interesting and edgy. The pacing of the book is fast as the story progresses with a swiftly through the twists and the turns and the hidden stories from the Cold War era to the biblical and satanic preaching.

The mystery concocted by the author is really cleverly unwrapped through its layers and unexpected twists that will both shock the hell out of readers minds as well as anticipate the story till the very end. The mystifying tension will keep the readers hooked to the edges of their seats until the very climax that is not only unforeseeable but is quite powerful and apt. The mystery runs in the background of a love story that the author has penned with lots of compassion that will definitely make the readers feel the heat as well as passion off the pages of the book.

The characters in this book are well-developed. The main character, Ellie, is a brave and dedicated woman who will go at any length or take any risks to uncover the truth. Her relationship with other characters is projected as authentic and striking. The only disappointing part of the story would be that this story is set in the 60s, but not once I felt like teleported back in time as the time setting could play a major role in the story.

In a nutshell, the story is a must read that will challenge and entice the readers' minds and hearts and also the story will give the readers a rush towards the thrill over the mystery and the summery feel over love and swimming.

Verdict: A thriller not to be missed.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, James W. Ziskin, for giving me an opportunity to read and review his book.

Author Info:
James Ziskin is the author of the Anthony-, Barry-, and Lefty-nominated Ellie Stone Mysteries. A linguist by training, James studied Romance Languages and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his graduate degree, he worked in New York as a photo-news producer and writer, and then as Director of NYU’s Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò. He has since spent fifteen years in the Hollywood post production industry, running large international operations in the subtitling/localization and visual effects fields. His international experience includes two years working and studying in France, extensive time in Italy, and more than three years in India. He speaks Italian and French.

James grew up in Amsterdam, New York. He now lives in the Hollywood Hills with his wife, Lakshmi, and cats Bobbie and Tinker.
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