Artist & Crime Fiction Author
Shroud of Lies
"… Shroud of Lies is a fast-paced who-dunnit that is very entertaining. It is an absolute page-turner. I couldn't put it down. Read it in one setting. Not only is it fast-paced, but it is also an easy-read. There are no "spoiler alerts" here because I want you to read this excellent mystery.
Everything comes to a very detailed, wrapped-up ending. This is my first Marta Stephens novel, but it will most definitely will not be my last. I'm looking forward to reading additional works by her.
'Shroud of Lies' is an excellent who-dunnit book that I highly recommend. I easily give it a 9 out of 10! Wonderful story line. Would love to see a sequel. Check it out. Definite thumbs-up!"
Reviewed by Kim Aalaie, Authors Den
Dizzying Ride of a Story that Will Keep You on the Edge of Your Seat!
Marta Stephens' book, SHROUD OF LIES is a dizzying read that follows through on its promise that nothing is as it seems. Private detective Rhonie Lude, fallen on hard times with bills climbing faster than ivy. She is forced to accept a job from Oliver Kurtz, who, at first, puts her through a cat and mouse rigmarole until he finally gets clear on what he wants from her. Kurtz, former FBI, asks Lude to follow his daughter and with only the barest facts as to why. Lude, desperate for money, accepts with misgivings.
What you can expect from this book set in the 1960’s is cheeky, entertaining dialogue and characters that beguile you as to which classification they belong in - good person or dirty scum. The conversations and Lude’s internal thoughts will crack a smile from even the most anhedonic, diehard gloomy person alive! It doesn't take long, after accepting Kurtz’s job, for Lude to find herself suddenly involved in murder after murder with the cops denying foul play, insisting these murders are suicide, but Lude knows something “ain’t right here” and like a pitbull grabbing on, she won’t let go until she finds the truth. Despite warnings from the cops and others to let it go and walk away, Lude has to know the truth, as deceptive and obscured as it is causing her to put her life in danger and walk a labyrinth of paths which branch into paths least suspected!
The twists and turns in this fast-paced mystery will keep you reading from start to finish because you won’t be able to put the book down. Will Lude come out of this alive? Can she solve the murders? How will she survive the dangers awaiting her? You have to read the book to get these answers. Author Stephens book SHROUD OF LIES is a best read of the who dunnit detective genre. I was endlessly smitten with the characters, the maze of deceptions, and the surprise ending. This is a book you won’t want to deny yourself!
Reviewed by Barbara Davis-Thompson
The trail just keeps getting messier and more dangerous...
A tale that starts with a few pesky questions and a 'simple' job for Rhonie Lude, a PI who really has to hustle just to keep ahead of the bill collectors. She's better than that, but seems to be down on her luck.
Even though the job starts out as something she'd normally pass on, once in it, events spiral into larger and larger whirlpools, and it was interesting to see if and how Lude wove her way among them (think survive).
Reminds me a little of the Rockford Files, but with a female lead.
Reviewed by T. W. Ervin II
This is my first Marta Stephens book but it certainly won’t be my last. I’m a fast reader and started reading “Shroud of Lies”, around 2pm. Four hours and eleven minutes later, I had finished all 254 pages. I love whodunit books—especially when they are an easy read and a page turner like this one certainly is. From the very first page, I was transported to Los Angeles, California in the ‘60s with the main character of the book, Private Investigator, Rhonie Lude as she accepted a case from a client, a retired FBI agent, Oliver Kurtz who provided her with sketchy details and half-truths at best of the reasons he wanted to hire Rhonie to follow his daughter, Amanda Kinney and report back to him her whereabouts. At first, the case seems as clear-cut and effortless as the down payment Rhonie collects for her labor: $1,000 in Franklins and Grants stuffed in an envelope. But from there the book quickly leads the reader on a fast paced pursuit of the discovery of who Amanda Kinney really is and why Rhonie’s surveillance of her leads to ominous telephone warnings to back off, near scrapes with death and ultimately murder.
Reviewed by Dana Owens
Note this is an abridged version of review of SHROUD OF LIES.
Stephens introduces her readers to a new private detective, Rhonie Lude, a red-head private investigator, who inhabits Southern California. It took me less than the first chapter to realize that Stephens’ writing is a direct descendant of Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain and Dashiell Hammett, although with a distaff twist. When I pulled this book from the Author’s Den library, the short blurb about it caused me to think this was a modern-day detective story. However, it’s actually set in the ‘60s, so that Rhonie Lude could be called a first-generation descendant of Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe.
When we meet Rhonie, she is a twenty-six-year-old, former patrol officer now turned private investigator. (Rhonie’s status as “former cop” deals with a harrowing and heart-wrenching scenario which I will let Stephens tell you about in the novel.) She is also down on her luck, living above a bar-and-grill, barely scraping by because she has not had a paying client in some time. (Shades of Sam Spade?!) Her landlord, Jimmy “Pops” Zell, plays a key role in this mystery as the reader will find out.
Stephens’s use of sharp, short descriptions harkens back to detective noir novels of the past. Here’s an example: “In fatter days my exit from this situation would have been swift. I still had my pride, but honor and self-respect weren’t paying the bills,” heroine Lude states at the outset of the novel when she agrees to meet Kurtz because she is practically penniless.
Stephens does do a great job juxtaposing the differences between being a PI and a police detective, their differing motivations and job duties. When the Gates of Warren & Gates is found, shot to death in his own car, an apparent suicide, but probably not, Rhonie’s job, and hope is that whoever killed him, it wasn’t Amanda. Finding who did kill him wasn’t in her job description.
How does Shroud of Lies compare to the classics like The Maltese Falcon? Shroud holds its own; it isn’t an instant classic, but it is a well-told story with a compelling anti-heroine who gives the old dogs a run for her money. I have not read Stephens’ other two novels, but based on this one, would certainly be willing to risk a few hours of my time to do so. Rhonie is a fitting heiress to Phillip Marlowe: “Uncovering the truth in people’s lives was often like putting together the pieces of a broken mirror. Each new bit of information reflected a twisted new truth I hadn’t anticipated….”
Stephens’s continuation of the detective noir novel is a welcome addition to the literature.
I do recommend Shroud of Lies and give it a 8/10 score. ~ Review by author A. J. Ullman