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An Uncertain Currency (1999)
Imagine that Cesar Romero has psychic powers and that he, instead of Virgil Tibbs/Sidney Poitier, has been asked to help a Southern police department solve a murder case. Mario Castigliani is the handsome but nearly broke clairvoyant who has brought his mind reading act to Floraville, Georgia. Beaufort Tyler the personable young police chief enlists his aid to look into the apparent suicide of a local civil rights pioneer and union activist who seems to have hung himself. "Seems to" because his death could be linked to labor unrest at the powerful town mill, to the recent release from prison of a rabid racist, even to the similar hanging death of the prior chief of police.
The mystery though is simply the point of departure for a richly textured fish-out-of-water story, as Castigliani brings his cosmopolitan, continental sensibilities and his psychic gift to bear on this sleepy Southern burgh. The book is at it's best when he's interacting with the locals and attempting to understand their lives, an understanding made easier by his ability to read their thoughts. Less effective are the continuing flashbacks to his earlier life in Italy and on the stage. This all could be better handled in one longer passage early on, which would help the narrative flow of the novel.
At any rate, Mario Castigliani and Beau Tyler make an agreeable, if unlikely, team and the authors populate the town with plenty of interesting characters, some comic, others tragic. They also make it easy to suspend disbelief about Mario's paranormal powers, mostly treating him as hypersensitive to the thoughts of others, rather than having him resort to all kinds of mental pyrotechnics. Likewise, they show the many mundane tricks he uses to beguile his audience, which makes for one of the most absorbing sections of the book. By not pushing the psychic angle too hard, they keep the focus on the characters and deliver a murder mystery with a crafty twist.
-BIO : Clyde Lynwood Sawyer, Jr. (Booklore)
-BOOK PAGE : An Uncertain Currency (Avocet Press)
-REVIEW : of An Uncertain Currency (Harriet Klausner, Painted Rock Reviews)
-REVIEW : of An Uncertain Currency (Chrissi, Booklore)