Fresh Meat: Silver Cross by B. Kent Anderson

Silver Cross by B. Kent Anderson is a thriller based in a slightly altered reality, featuring Meg Tolman, deputy director of an X-Files-type agency (available November 27, 2012).

I love a book that teaches me something about history I didn’t know. I was completely unaware of the connection between the Civil War and Napoleon III, the nephew of the great Napoleon. Though most of this story is fiction, B. Kent Anderson carefully weaves tiny elements of fact into it and makes it fascinating.

The book begins with Meg Tolman hearing of the death of her college friend, Dana Cable, and finding that Dana has left everything of value she had to Meg. Knowing Dana had two brothers, Meg is uncertain why she was Dana’s heir. After learning that both of Dana’s brothers have died within the past year, she feels certain there’s more to Dana’s death than an unfortunate accident. When a strange woman gives Meg an envelope at the graveside and Meg is shot at before leaving the cemetery, she proposes the case for the Research and Investigations Office or RIO, where she is deputy director.

Before Meg gets her answers, her life and that of her friend and historical consultant, Nick Journey, his new girlfriend, Sandra, and his autistic son, Andrew, are in the sights of some very bad people.

Let me say up front, there was one thing that bugged me throughout the book—Anderson’s use of surnames for characters instead of given names. It confused me and occasionally I would have to read sections again to be sure I had in my head which character was doing what. I know this is customarily done in news stories, but for me, it does not work well in fiction.

That, however, is the only negative comment I have. The characters are interesting and realistic, and everything they do moves the story along. I enjoy the many levels of relationships. Nick and Sandra are just discovering each other as love interests rather than simple colleagues, and Nick’s son is going through puberty with some unfortunate reactions due to his autism.

The story gripped me from the time I realized the historical perspective in the prologue. I knew there were several women who were prominent spies for the South, but I had not heard the tragic story of Rose Greenhow and the circumstance surrounding her death.

Anderson takes this small seed and uses it to create a full-blown story that not only follows the small leads of Rose’s tale, but are completely believable. I think you’ll be as surprised as I was when you read the author’s note at the end of the book revealing what parts of the story were from his imagination instead of history.

Just as interesting as Rose’s story is the story behind the mysterious Ann Gray, a “fixer” who is willing to do whatever a client needs to get a job done satisfactorily. Once again, Anderson weaves her part of the story skillfully enough to keep you guessing whether she’s one of the good guys.

This is one small scene from the many clues that lead Meg Tolman and Nick Journey on a merry chase:

Davison frowned at her. Tolman slid the paper into its envelope and took two quick steps toward Davison’s car.

A gunshot exploded into the ground where Tolman had been standing a second ago.

She dove to the ground, the knees of her pants scraping the grass. Another shot cracked, kicking up a spray of earth two feet to the other side of her.

Davison turned to Tolman, then looked across the road and said. “What—”

Tolman’s mind raced. Her SIG Sauer 9mm was in her travel bag. She’d had it in the hearse ride from Springfield. Presumably the funeral director had taken it out before leaving the cemetery. She inched along the ground beside Davison’s car. There!

She spotted the bag, in the open on the other side of the minister’s car.

The shots were coming from across the narrow road that ran beside the cemetery. It was up a small slope, giving the shooter a perfect vantage point. As soon as she emerged from the protection of the car, she would be exposed.

There’s an old secret, a new mystery, a lot of questions that need answering, and the possibility it could end with several innocent people dead. Don’t start this one the week of Christmas, or you may not be ready for Santa’s arrival because you’ll be in the back room reading!

Find more coverage of new releases in our Fresh Meat series.

Leigh Neely, a former reporter and newspaper and magazine editor, now does freelance work while writing novels about shapeshifters, vampires, and witches. Her story, “A Vampire in Brooklyn,” in is the anthology, Murder New York Style: Fresh Slices from the Sisters in Crime in the New York City area. She and her writing partner, Jan Powell, are looking forward to the publication of their book, Second Nature by Neely Powell, in Spring 2013.

Read all posts by Leigh Neely for Criminal Element.

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