3 out of 4 stars
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Do you believe in palm reading? This is just one of the many questions regarding the relationship between science and art that are posed during this engaging crime drama. Renowned graphologist, Jacob Bruno, is regularly called upon to give evidence confirming whether or not signatures on wills are authentic. One day, Jacob is commissioned by a mystery woman to judge whether or not a love letter, which she has discovered in her husband's belongings, has been written by her husband. As Jacob reviews the letter, we are introduced to the various techniques used to identify an individual's handwriting. Jacob's assistant, Sarah, is training to be a graphologist, and is keen to maintain her credibility as a scientist. It is Sarah's romantic relationship with Max, who earns money reading palms, which introduces the reader to a debate on the relative merits of graphology and palm reading.
The central plot line relates to a child abduction case. Jay Jay is nine years old when she disappears from her home. Attention focuses on the ransom note and Jacob is asked to ascertain whether or not the handwriting belongs to Jay Jay's father, Skipper. Rudy Stein, a local reporter, follows the evidence to uncover a history of child pornography and abusive behaviour amongst Skipper's friends. The plot takes a violent turn as Rudy leads efforts to find out whether or not Jay Jay is still alive in a race against time.
Fate Line by Marc J Seifer is the fourth in the Rudy Stein series. As the main character in the book, we see Rudy at home with his wife and son, Zeke, and we are clearly intended to identify with Rudy as he pursues a successful career while enjoying a happy family life. However, I find Rudy's character to be a little too self-serving, as if his family is interesting only as his supporting cast. Personally, my favourite character in the book is Sarah's boyfriend, Max. I like Max's healthy, carefree attitude to life; he is independent and comfortable with his own sense of self. When Max faces rejection from his preferred college course, for example, he does not dwell on his misfortune. He heads off on tour with a group of gypsies to gain life experience and earn some money. Sarah is a little more uptight, but she does relax as her relationship with Max matures.
I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. The plot is extremely well constructed and the threads are brought together expertly at the end. It is also interesting to learn about graphology and palm reading. That said, the handwriting descriptions are a little tedious, as there are only so many times that a detailed description of the significance of certain letter shapes will hold the attention. My main reason for withholding a fourth star, however, is the multitude of unnecessarily graphic references to abusive behaviour, and the slightly disturbing approach to the topic, with descriptions of Jay Jay as a "vixen" with forbidden sex appeal. Too many times I felt like Rudy's wife, Chessie, when she tells her husband that she wishes that he had not brought up the topic.
This book will appeal to those who enjoy crime fiction, as well as to people with an interest in graphology. Unfortunately, there is too much focus on incest. For this reason, I would not recommend this book to younger readers, or to those who do not enjoy stories involving abusive behaviour. This is a shame because the book is, otherwise, a very enjoyable read.
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