Review: Interpretation of Murder. B.K. Stevens. Black Opal Books. 2015. ISBN:97816269425921. Paper. 295 pages. $12.99. E-book, $3.99.
Interpretation of Murder is a good introduction to the world of the deaf. The sleuth is an interpreter who is hired by private detective Walt Sadowski to learn why a rich lawyer’s deaf nineteen-year-old daughter is acting different. Jane Ciardi meets Rosa in a café when Walt is interviewing her for the job. Jane has doubts about doing this, as interpreters are supposed to treat as confidential what they learn from interpreting for deaf people, yet if Rosa is in trouble, she wants to help. She agrees to take the job.
When Jane sees a teenaged boy steal Rosa’s purse, she uses her knowledge of martial arts to trip him and retrieve the purse. Rosa is delighted to meet an interpreter and urges Jane to take the class she takes with Sam, an instructor in soyu ryu bojujutsu. Sam is also the boyfriend Rosa’s father is worried might be leading Rosa astray, perhaps into drugs. Mr. Patterson disapproves of Sam, who wears earrings and is eight years older than his daughter. He thinks Sam is a “low class” white while Rosa is African American, but Rosa won’t tell her father anything about her present life.
Jane joins Sam’s class and also the fitness center where Rosa is a member. Jane has decided to find out about Gary, the last person Walt had hired for this job who had ended up dead. Then a young white woman who had been with Rosa and Sam in the café ends up dead–drowned near a bar that is less that reputable, where suicides have occurred before. Was it suicide, or was the young woman murdered? How are Sam and Rosa mixed up in it?
Jane has had difficulty getting interpreting jobs from her agency because she had challenged another interpreter’s translation in a court case as being unethical, and now her agency sees her as controversial and isn’t giving her jobs. Temporarily she has several part-time jobs, one of which is with a cleaning company.
When Hector Connolly, who had interviewed her for membership in the fitness club, asks her out, she asks Rosa for a manicure. She wants to look nice and her fingernails take a beating at her cleaning job. Rosa works as a manicurist so as not to be dependent for money on her wealthy father.
At the beauty shop Jane notices that some of Rosa’s friends from the fitness center come regularly for manicures. They work at fairly low-paying jobs and yet both belong to the pricey fitness center and get manicures regularly, which would seem to be out of their price range.
Jane also is noticing some odd behavior among the Connolly family members who own and administer the fitness center named for their mother, the famous Olympian gold and silver ice skating winner, Elise Reed. Jane persists in trying to uncover what has led to the two deaths and also what Rosa and Sam are doing, as they seem to have secrets, too.
The plot line builds slowly but inexorably, and Jane risks being injured or killed as she tries to learn what is going on below the surface and at the fitness center and how or whether Rosa is involved.
This novel also proved to be an introduction to martial arts, some of which I’d never heard of. I liked the heroine’s concern about morality and ethics, as well as her determination to discover and reveal what is going on among the characters, especially the Connolly family.
I’ve always enjoyed B.K.’s short stories, and I knew she was eager to publish a novel. Here it is in an interesting niche, but a good eye-opener for those of us relatively ignorant about the lives of deaf people and the various martial arts.
B.K. (BONNIE) STEVENS’s first novel, Interpretation of Murder, is a whodunit that offers insights into deaf culture and sign language interpreting. Her young adult novel, Fighting Chance, is a martial arts mystery and also a coming of age story. In the spring of 2016, Wildside Press will publish Her Infinite Variety: Tales of Women and Crime, which collects some of the over fifty short stories B.K. has published. Most of these stories originally appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. B.K. has won a Derringer and has been nominated for Agatha and Macavity awards. This year, both Fighting Chance and a Hitchcock story, “A Joy Forever,” are finalists for Agatha awards. B.K. and her husband, Dennis, live in Virginia and have two grown daughters. http://www.bkstevensmysteries.com.
You can buy Interpretation of Murder at the website of the publisher, where it costs $9.99.: www.blackopalbooks.com
and on Amazon.