Stephanie Kane is a lawyer and award-winning author of four crime novels. Born in Brooklyn, she came to Colorado as a freshman at CU. She owned and ran a karate studio in Boulder and is a second-degree black belt. After graduating from law school, she was a corporate partner at a top Denver law firm before becoming a criminal defense attorney. She has lectured on money laundering and white collar crime in Eastern Europe, and given workshops throughout the country on writing technique. She lives in Denver with her husband and two black cats.
Extreme Indifference and Seeds of Doubt won a Colorado Book Award for Mystery and two Colorado Authors League Awards for Genre Fiction. She belongs to Mystery Writers of America, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and the Colorado Authors League.
““An artistic thriller that will keep readers guessing.””
– Kirkus Reviews
In this third installment of a crime novel series, dioramas featuring miniature homicide scenes—which serve as teaching tools for cops—may be inspiring real murders.
Adam and Eve Castle—he’s an architect and she’s a psychologist—run Castle Training in Denver. He builds dioramas that resemble cutaway dollhouses where some little mannequins have met with bad ends. She writes the scripts: Were these really cases of murder or just unfortunate accidents? The cops have to put the visual clues together. But to everyone’s growing horror, genuine murders are occurring that seem to be inspired by these settings, including a man bludgeoned in his high-rise hot tub just as the Castles portrayed it in miniature. At the same time, Lily Sparks—an art conservator, former attorney, and the hero of this series—is trying to stabilize a Thomas Cole painting of a manor. Lily discovers, with the aid of a scruffy genius named Raf Feldman, that the work is not a genuine Cole after all. And Lily and her lover, Paul Reilly, are desultorily house hunting. (Is there a theme here?) At any rate, as in Kane’s other volumes, Lily, her insights doubted if not ridiculed, tries to expose the murderer. But this places her in danger of being killed herself. The author knows how to keep things moving swiftly, and readers get a good picture of hip society in Denver. And she always gives readers a little something extra. The Castle Training bit, for example, is based on real history. Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) devoted her life to making miniature dioramas and for exactly the forensic purposes readers see in the story. She became known as the “mother of forensic science.” As for the Cole, the audience learns why the depiction of houses would be anathema to the founder of the Hudson River School. That said, readers will occasionally find it hard to follow the subtleties of Lily’s deductive breakthroughs. Sometimes, the audience will just have to take it on faith that she is on the right track.
A whodunit that delivers an excellent gallery of characters and captivating historical tidbits.
Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2021
Publisher: COLD HARD PRESS
Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021
Lily Sparks is back in this latest mystery installment, tracking down a killer inspired by Edward Hopper’s paintings.
Ex-attorney Lily is the conservator of paintings at the Denver Art Museum, which is gearing up for a major Hopper exhibit. To gin up excitement before the opening, the museum staff plans a series of tableaux vivants of selected paintings at venues around the city, but with a twist: The static scenes with actors will each transform into a short playlet in the spirit of the painting. The first, “Automat,” is a great success—until Lily finds the actor backstage with her throat cut. Who did it? And should the three remaining tableaux still go on? Lily wants to cancel them but she’s overruled, which means that each one will be an invitation for the murderer to strike again. As Lily tries to narrow down the possible suspects, she also tries to get her erstwhile boyfriend, FBI agent Paul Reilly, to come back to Denver from Washington, D.C.—and hopefully, back into her life. Soon, another actor is killed, and one of Lily’s friends gets pushed in front of a car. For the final tableau, Lily makes herself the bait, leading to a tense climax and a conclusion that’s a bit far-fetched but certainly apt. Kane knows how to build suspense, and she’s adept at scattering red herrings throughout the narrative. This new outing is very similar to her previous book, A Perfect Eye (2019), in some ways; it not only features the same cast of characters, but also portrays a sick villain who’s drawn to the works of a particular painter, and it reuses the shtick of occasionally providing the killer’s interior monologues. That said, the latter device is still chilling, and it still works. Readers may also learn a lot about Hopper, as well—a contained man whose paintings speak volumes about solitude and, often, desperation. Over the course of this book, those paintings are shown to be as much an intellectual as an aesthetic experience.
Kane delivers yet again for fans of fine art and whodunits.
Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2020
Page count: 157pp
Publisher: COLD HARD PRESS
Review Posted Online: June 28, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020
A whodunit features a homicidal painter in present-day Denver.
Lily Sparks, once a lawyer, has reinvented herself as the conservator of paintings at the Denver Art Museum, where she is renowned for being able to spot a forgery. George Kurtz, a very wealthy patron of the museum, has been brutally murdered, his corpse arranged in a sick homage to impressionist Gustave Caillebotte’s Fields of the Gennevilliers Plain, No. Seven. Enter hunky FBI agent Paul Riley. He and Lily were lovers a decade ago, and the flame still burns. Then there are Lily’s assistant, Amy; Lily’s professional rival, Gina Wheelock; Dave Byers, an experienced docent; and Nick Lang, whom everyone is a bit suspicious of, but that doesn’t stop Lily from sleeping with him. Throw in Lily’s widowed father, Harry Sparks, and that about rounds out the important cast. Kane (Seeds of Doubt, 2004, etc.) is an experienced—and lauded—thriller writer, and it shows. Her bad guy truly is a sicko. Some chilling chapters are told from the killer’s point of view, but of course he is not identified—not an original ploy but effective. So the drama builds, along with Lily’s and Paul’s tortured feelings for each other and their requisite misunderstandings. Has Paul sold out? Why is Nick so cagey? How many people hated Kurtz, and why? There is some clever misdirection in these pages. As a bonus, the audience gets quite an introduction to art appreciation, particularly from a conservator’s point of view. Add in the traditional scary chases toward the end—Lily becoming cornered, fighting an unknown assailant in the dark, and feeling unsure whom to trust—and readers have a truly classic thriller. An added, traditional fillip is that the killer has many more on his list, supercharging the race against time. How satisfying is the final reveal? Well, that will be up to each reader.
An artistic thriller that will keep readers guessing and please the author’s fans.
Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Time Tunnel Media
Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019
A sophomore case for dyslexic Denver attorney Jackie Flowers finds her equally outraged and baffled but less personally engaged.
Rachel Boyd has just finished doing 30 years for killing Freddie Gant in Vivian, Colorado, when he was 4 and she was only 12. No sooner is she released and gone to stay with her banker brother Christopher in Denver than another child disappears: Chris’s gardener’s son Benjamin Sparks, 6, who promptly turns up as dead as little Freddie. Things look so bad for Rachel, an ex-con who showed no remorse for her earlier crime or even admitted she’d done it, that Chris insists Jackie defend her and shoves a pot of money at her to get her interest. And she’ll need all the incentive she can get because everyone around her, from her investigator to her next-door neighbors to her ex-lover, attorney Dennis Ross, is agog that she’s agreed to take Rachel in as a houseguest when she’s released on her own recognizance because they all assume Rachel’s guilty. And why shouldn’t they? The postmortem exam shows that Ben was wounded in a pattern eerily similar to Freddie, presumably with a weapon that hasn’t been found for 30 years. Both Lee Simms, the tabloid journalist who rode the earlier case to brief glory, and Trina Maune, Rachel’s grade-school cohort and confidante, who make the trip from Vivian to Denver, and from past to present, ostensibly to help Jackie defend Rachel turn out to have agendas of their own. And of course she has to fight tooth and nail for every inch of pretrial courtroom turf.
Despite her best efforts, Kane doesn’t give her smart, sorely beset heroine anything like the personal stake in this case that she had in her debut (Extreme Indifference, 2003). Instead, Jackie seems intent on building a client base consisting entirely of the most despised people in Colorado.
Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2004
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2004
Dyslexic Denver attorney Jackie Flowers (Blind Spot, not reviewed) defends her universally disliked law professor in a particularly sordid murder case.
University of Colorado freshman Amy Lynch escapes from the mountain cabin where she’s been held, collared and cuffed, just in time to attract the attention of a romantic couple—but not in time to recover from the pneumonia she’s contracted from wandering naked through the snow. When the cops trace both the handcuffs and the cabin to US District Judge Glenn Ballard, already notorious for his proposal to tax Internet porn, he insists that Jackie defend him, though back in law school he’d held her abilities (compromised, in truth, by her frequent inability to read) in contempt. Jackie responds by raising a whirlwind of activity—digging up unpleasant truths about how much Amy’s wealthy parents had known about her liaison with porn producer Derek King, raising the possibility of unseemly jockeying in the race for the next Chief Judgeship, identifying suspects who might have had motive for planting bondage videos and ketamine in Ballard’s home and chambers—and gets some additional help from a reformed arsonist who goes up in smoke for his unsought efforts before she brings the crime home to a perp as surprising as he is unbelievable.
Sturdy intrigue in and out of court with an especially sharp eye for the riptides of power running just beneath the legal quiddities.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2003
Page count: 304pp
Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003
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