A gruesome murder is no match for a vodka-swilling Russian medium in Fortis’ debut mystery novel.
“Chainsaw” Jane Dzhugashvili is a character in every sense of the word. “Small and wrinkled like a Russian bad seed,” Jane lives in the small town of Noliar, Pa., and has a proclivity for good Russian vodka, strong curse words and tarot cards. Despite her unconventional appearance and personality traits, Jane is also a medium who works with the NYPD. When New York City bookstore owner Dorothea Sishy goes missing, the police (led by Jane’s friend Julie) show up on Jane’s doorstep asking for help. Though Jane is distracted by the recent disappearance of her best friend, Cruz, she agrees to use her skills as a medium to deduce what happened to Dorothea. According to Jane and the cards, Dorothea has been the victim of a grisly murder, most likely at the hands of one of her many lovers. The cops also realize that something may link the murder and Cruz’s disappearance, meaning Cruz and even Jane are in serious danger. Julie enlists the help of her old friend Zoe, and the two manage to pack up Jane and move her to New York City, where Jane continues to pursue the murder case in hopes of saving Cruz. The investigation carries on in both Noliar and New York City, leading to several suspenseful moments as Jane closes in on the killer. Fortis has a marvelous character in Chainsaw Jane, a complicated woman with a cryptic past. Jane’s voice, the result of countless cigarettes and an occasionally thick Russian accent, comes through loud and clear thanks to Fortis’ snappy, smart dialogue. Zoe, Julie and the various personalities of Noliar are a solid supporting cast who accept Jane, despite her eccentricities. The psychic’s abilities and her involvement in the crimes intrigue, and Fortis presents a mystery with elements of suspense, horror and humor. A simmering romantic interest who returns from Zoe’s past offers a nice secondary plotline.
A thrilling mystery with an unlikely yet endearing heroine.