by Alan Annand
Paper – 333 pp.
Price not marked
If the title looks like it belongs on a novel, well, that’s because Soma County is a novel. Specifically, it’s a crime novel. If you’re now wondering why a crime novel is being reviewed here, well, possibly you’ve never encountered Alan Annand before. Annand is an accomplished writer of suspense novels; he is also an accomplished Vedic astrologer with a solid grasp of Eastern and Western astrology, palmistry, and more. He has imbued his protagonist, Axel Crowe, with this knowledge and set him loose in what he calls his New Age Noir series. This is the third book in that series, but you don’t need to have read the other two to understand Crowe (though, as with an old friend, his character has deepened and become more clear with each novel). And Crowe for the most part is a likeable guy — as is his former guru who is an invisible but very definite presence in this book.
The plot? A beautiful woman dies at a wine tasting at a California vineyard owned by the woman’s close friend and the friend’s husband. The police assume it was a tainted batch of wine. When Crowe is called in by the friend, he suspect’s otherwise. Who would want to put the vineyard in jeopardy? Hmm…there are several possibilities — a developer, assorted workers (one of whom turns up missing), and perhaps other vintners hoping to capitalize on this vineyard’s ruined reputation. But this is no simple whodunit. The action takes you from the Napa Valley to India and back again. And along the way, a black market in body parts adds to the intrigue. Am I going to tell you more? Only that the characters are well developed, the plot is rich and fast-paced, and Crowe is very generous in relaying snippets of astrology, numerology, and Vedic lore. Consider this a painless introduction to some very basic astrological principles as well as a thriller you won’t want to put down.
Non-astrological readers tend to appreciate Annand’s books every bit as much as we do, so if you want to sneakily pique somebody’s interest in astrology, do leave this book lying about. And if you haven’t read the first two in the series, consider getting them as well if you like this one. Scorpio Rising and Felonious Monk are equally good.