– by A. Rose Mathieu
Truth be told, I stumbled upon A. Rose Mathieu‘s 2017 debut novel, “Sins Of Our Fathers” sometime last year and quickly placed it on my reading queue primarily because of the “sinfully” ill-omened cover beckoning me so resistance was futile for me, tbh! You know me and spellbindingly aesthetic art! And then, there was the title with the familiar phrase which, to my delight, would equate to the saying, “old sins cast long shadows,” which could only mean – hidden past, unsolved mystery, convergence of the past, present and future with intertwining stories – that I could look forward to in Mathieu’s book! Why, then, wait until now to read it? Blame my horridly LONG reading queue and…timing….mood. Yup, that’s it. So now that I’m in the mood for some good lesfic crime/mystery/thriller, I thought it was perfect timing for me to read it. Well, I inhaled it. At no time at all because…what a page-turner, it was!! Utterly brilliant writing and storytelling! I LOVED it!
First and foremost, I just wanna say “Sins of Our Fathers” definitely read like a general mystery/crime/suspense/thriller fiction as much as a lesbian fiction of the same genres. The tone, the flow, the content were structured in a way that it could be marketed as mainstream fiction as well as lesfic, really. Best of both worlds, eh? But I, for one, am glad we have Mathieu’s books in lesfic! Yay! Then, there was Mathieu’s approach to writing a story about a crime that involved investigations, which I thought was delightfully refreshing. See, usually in crime fiction, the main lead, the MC, is a copper/law enforcement agent (FBI, CIA, other alphabet agencies) charged with investigating the case that drives the plot in the story, innit? But not this one. Mathieu turned the tables and made the main lead, the MC, the one doing all the investigating (nevermind the hijinks, too, whilst we’re at it!), the “field work,” so to speak – an ATTORNEY!!! Yup, rather than the copper, who was the second MC being the one investigating the case, it was the attorney who played sleuth in investigating the questionable conviction of a young lad with a mind of a child who unwittingly confessed to a brutal murder of a priest he couldn’t have committed whilst also trying to vacate its judgement in court! Phew, talk about a FULL plate, eh? Mathieu sure wasn’t having her MC go idly by even for a mo, that’s for sure! So, here we have an attorney taking on the investigating and the detecting whilst the legit copper plays second fiddle. Refreshing or whaa, eh? Brilliant!
Speaking of the attorney, I absolutely adored Elizabeth right from the start when she entered the scene howling like a mad woman with her signature tone-deaf singing! I was chuckling at the entire scene because something else also happened! Well, you just have to read it! Hilarious! What a way to start the story, eh? Anyway, Elizabeth was a trust-fund baby who, bless her, abandoned her legacy at her father’s prestigious law firm in favour of working for a non-profit legal clinic that helped the indigent folk. You can just imagine how her parents took it! I LOVED Mathieu’s characterisation of Elizabeth – refreshingly funny, witty, whipsmart, not to mention, accident-prone which provided some hilarious comic relief throughout the story! Her internal monologue and quips were so unexpectedly funny I’d always end up chuckling away! Such an endearing, fun character to explore! That kitchen scene with the tying of the roast!!! BLOODY hilarious, is all I’m gonna say! *guffaw*
Being a big nerd in anything law or justice-related, I was positively delighted that Mathieu spared no details with all the nuts and bolts of how the legal system worked when it came to Elizabeth’s job and her cases – courtroom proceedings, jury selections, client interviews, paperwork, plus giving the reader a peek into “a day in the life” of Elizabeth working as a pro bono lawyer. Obviously, with an inquisitive character like Elizabeth’s, she unwittingly became entangled with an old criminal case quite by accident when she smelled a rat whilst reviewing it as part of the city’s attempt at being more transparent with their criminal convictions by having non-partisan, third-party private legal entities like Elizabeth’s conduct reviews of select cases. I loved that Elizabeth’s steadfast tenacity and unwavering need to solve a puzzle had inadvertently turned herself into an amateur sleuth! Very “Murder She Wrote“-cum-“Miss Marple” except that Elizabeth’s antics were oh-so funny especially when she accidentally involved a very nervous but helpful priest with all her shenanigans and questionable acts that were veering towards the illegal! More later…
Grace, the other MC, was incidentally the young, impressionable uniformed officer who arrested the now-imprisoned young lad, Raymond, for a heinous crime that occurred a few years ago, and currently enjoying her fast-tracked promotion to detective, who was also the only female detective in her precinct, surprise, sur-bloody-prise! Obviously, her reluctance to assist Elizabeth in the already tried and convicted, closed case stemmed from not just because she was the arresting officer (nobody likes to be caught out being in the wrong or accused of being incompetent, least of all, if you’re the singled-out female detective who’s been trying to prove your worth and respect in the “boys’ club” since day 1!) but also because of the “organisational culture” in her unit (and the entire force, really!) that had effectively pacified any potential challenge or questions she might have about anything that could jeopardise her reputation and position within her unit. In essence, blind, misplaced loyalty (for fear of exclusion, respect or isolation) over doing her job with professional impartiality. So naturally, she butted heads with Elizabeth ever since the latter started trying to poke holes at the crime where she was responsible for arresting Raymond, who confessed and was later convicted for it. With Elizabeth’s “dog with a bone” personality vs. Grace’s indignant resistance, grumpy behaviour, sparks naturally flew between them whilst oozing chemistry, their insta-attraction undeniable! So, their banter was simply delish! Although, their time together didn’t take up any space at all since this story, in essence, wasn’t a “romance“. Not at all. So, you can dispense with any expectation that there would be a proper romance included (unlike the usual lesfic books of the same genre) because there wasn’t. At least not in this 1st installment. I haven’t read the sequel yet, so I can’t really say. Thus, I strongly advise you to read this story like a regular mainstream crime/mystery thriller with a caveat that both leads happened to be women and lesbians (yay!) whose attraction to each other was on the DL, and minimally touched upon throughout the book.
Back to the accidental case that dropped onto Elizabeth’s lap, where it was apparent, from her preliminary review, that the conviction was clearly unsafe because the convicted criminal/prisoner simply didn’t fit the crime nor the M.O., Mathieu wasted no time getting Elizabeth’s hands dirty in a series of madcap investigatory acts, most of which, were merely skirting on the very edge of legality and/or lawfulness! Obviously, reopening a case that involved a brutal, ritualistic murder of a Catholic priest by someone who had straight-up confessed and convicted by law proved to be faced with obstacles from high places. With no support from any of the authorities including her own boss, Elizabeth resorted to dragging the poor priest who’d just helped her with one of her cases, for help. I must say, I had so much fun reading all the mad adventures that Elizabeth seemed to always get herself mixed up in with the helpless priest in tow! Mathieu’s visual descriptions of all those scenarios including some of the most amusing verbal exchanges between the two were absolutely captivating! At some point, I thought I was watching a buddy film what with these two most unlikely partners-in-crime placing themselves in funny, thrilling and at times, downright dangerous, situations in the name of cracking the truth about the case! Due to the fact that the case had a religious (Catholic priests, the church et al.) angle, I couldn’t help being reminded of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” and “Angels & Demons” whilst reading through Elizabeth and Father Parker’s thrilling investigative adventures. Reminiscent of Langdon-Sophie! Except, of course, Mathieu’s construction of all that came with some wicked humour and mishaps, too, which this story had an abundance of! I can’t divulge the details of such FUN times because they need to be experienced directly by the reader.
But what made this story so much more compelling and addictive to explore than merely the Miss Marple-Jessica Fletcher sleuthing activities, was the all-intriguing and exciting courtroom drama that Mathieu depicted ever so meticulously, with detailed descriptions of the procedures, the arguments, the interaction between the attorneys and the witnesses, the prosecutor-defence back-and-forths, the jury, the judge, accompanied by Mathieu’s methodical display of the nuances, the atmosphere, the feel inside the courtroom. So acutely portrayed I thought I was in attendance at the trial! The entire courtroom experience was utterly thrilling for me! To say that I was impressed by Mathieu’s skill in bringing the courtroom drama to life would be an understatement! I might have found another lesfic author who ticks all the boxes in the law/legal genre for me in Mathieu, yet! Well done, Ms. Mathieu!
Even more exhilarating was how Mathieu seemed to always surprise her readers with unexpected revelations, layered circumstances. All those twists and turns, as the story slowly but surely dove into the deep end where it turned on its own head as seemingly mundane and unrelated occurrences/events entwined and converged to give us the whole sordid picture when the final act was thrust upon the characters involved. In essence, there was not a dull moment in any part of the story. It was fast-paced with every turn, every development, every stage methodically structured. Mathieu kept me endlessly amused, entertained, engaged, curious and in suspense throughout Elizabeth’s entire mission/journey to uncover the ultimate truth.
As for secondary characters, they were enjoyable to explore particularly Raymond. He was written so empathetically I felt for him the whole way through. I enjoyed his rapport with Elizabeth. Obviously, Father Parker was amusing especially when he was being dragged into some madcap situations against his own judgement and sense of security! Elizabeth’s mum was a riot and adorbs in her own mum-meddling-in-daughter’s-personal-life way! Mathieu did a great job in portraying these secondary characters who enriched Elizabeth’s multi-dimensional character even more.
In regard to Elizabeth and Grace’s relationship? Well, please bear in mind that whilst Mathieu inserted an insta-attraction between the two MCs, it really didn’t go anywhere until the very end. If you ask me, I wouldn’t associate this story with romance at all. The romance was such an afterthought that I literally forgot there was one! Trust me, you don’t need romance for this story at all. Reading through Elizabeth and all her non-stop adventures with different characters, especially with her ever-humorous antics, nuances, state of mind and hilarious inner monologues will make you so engrossed and engaged with her and the plot will satisfy you thoroughly. And if you’re a crime/mystery/legal/thriller fan, I have a strong feeling you’ll enjoy this ride! What’s more, it’s bloody lesbian fiction!! YES!
All in all, I was well and truly entertained and totally satisfied by the end of the book. Everything that Mathieu constructed, crafted, weaved and twisted so rigorously well made this story one solid, kick-arse crime/legal/mystery thriller that is undoubtedly a MUST-READ. I can’t believe this was Mathieu’s DEBUT outing because she certainly wrote and constructed her tale like a seasoned, published author! What a fantastic first at establishing a solid presence in the world of lesfic, eh? I, for one, can’t wait to explore what she has in-store for her readers next! She’s definitely an author to watch in my book!
I HIGHLY recommend readers especially fans of this genre to give it a read!
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