BOOK REVIEW: 'Shades of Murder': Mac Faraday Meets Joshua Thornton in Complicated Cold Case Mystery Tale

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Shades of Murder': Mac Faraday Meets Joshua Thornton in Complicated Cold Case Mystery Tale

Lauren Carr has created two series of mystery tales, one involving former DC Homicide Detective Mac Faraday, living in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland; the other involving Hancock County, West Virginia Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Thornton.

Mac and Joshua meet for the first time in Carr's latest Mac Faraday mystery, "Shades of Murder" (CreateSpace, 230 pages, $14.99 print, $2.99 Kindle, available from They're brought together by two almost decade-long cold cases -- one involving the murder of a woman near Pittsburgh, the other the murder of celebrity artist Ilysa Ramsay, the trophy wife of high-tech tycoon Neal Hathaway in Deep Creek Lake, where Mac Faraday lives.

Mac inherited the fortune of "Queen of Mystery" Robin Spencer, his birth mother, enabling him to leave his underpaid life in Washington, DC and live large in Deep Creek Lake. He has a palatial mansion, a German Shepherd with attitude named Gnarly and a girlfriend named Archie Monday, who was the personal assistant to Spencer and who conveniently lives in Mac's guesthouse.

Thornton is a retired JAG attorney, a widower with five children, who learns about the case when a minister he knows, Rev. Brody, arranges a prison meeting in Pennsylvania with serial killer Oliver Cartright. Cartright admits to six horrific rape-murders, but says he didn't murder a seventh woman, known only as "Jane Doe." Cartright has been "born again" and wants Joshua to clear him of "Jane Doe's" murder.


Lauren Carr
Lauren Carr

Joshua finds an unexpected ally in Cameron Gates, an attractive 40-year-old widow who's a detective with the Pennsylvania State Police. Cameron suspects that "Jane Doe" wasn't murdered by Cartright and was the victim of a copycat killer. Cameron -- who has a Maine Coon cat named Irving, who has the coloring of a skunk -- and dog owner Joshua are immediately attracted to each other and join forces to investigate the crime -- despite the opposition of Cameron's superior officer, Lt. Sherry Bisby. (It's a good thing Lauren Carr provides a cast of characters, because there are so many of them!)

Shortly after Mac Faraday is enlisted by Deep Creek Lake Police Chief David O'Callaghan -- whose mother was also Robin Spencer -- to help solve Ilysa's murder, he's gifted with the artist's last painting, a self-portrait with all the suspects in the background. They're a weird bunch, including Swedish housekeeper Greta, described by some as a female version of Lurch, the Addams Family character; Neal's security chief Peyton Kaplan; his executive assistant Susan Dulin, and his son Scott from his first marriage and Scott's social climbing wife Rachel. The painting was stolen and sold to a wealthy art collector and friend of the late mystery writer, who's being unusually ethical and returning it to Mac. Who knew that harp playing Greta loved skinny-dipping at night in Deep Creek Lake?

Carr combines action with humor in a page-turning tale of intrigue. I reviewed two of her previous Mac Faraday novels, "Old Loves Die Hard" and "It's Murder, My Son" ( and I'm delighted to write that Lauren Carr is a talented mystery writer whose books deserve wide readership. Mac Faraday is well portrayed as a down-to-earth man surrounded by the rich and wretched of Deep Creek Lake -- and still maintaining his sanity. He also has to put up with Gnarly, a retired army dog, who relentlessly manipulates him, to the perverse delight of Archie.

About the Author

Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, "A Small Case of Murder" was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. "A Reunion to Die For" was released in hardback in June 2007. Both of these books are in re-release. Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, set in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. The first two books in her series, "It’s Murder, My Son" and Old Loves Die Hard have been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers. "Shades of Murder" is Lauren’s fifth mystery. The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This spring, two books written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services. Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes. She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV. Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at: E-Mail: Website:

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