Read it today!

I believe in serendipity. Throughout the late summer I consumed novels set in Spain in anticipation of my trip. Guidebooks are great for seeing the sights, but novels capture the national character and identify the flavor of a place. Among the books I read were two police procedurals by Antonio Hill and three of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series by Carlos Ruis Zafón. I noticed something labyrinthine and dark about all the books I read. I imagined Spain as the backdrop for a Gothic novel. Then, just before leaving for Barcelona, I had the opportunity to read the manuscript of Blood Allegiance. As I read this bone chilling crime novel set in Silicon Valley, I felt pulled into a dark world of exotic secrets, overwrought emotions, and tingling suspense. This modern-day police procedural—for me—a metonymy for gloom and horror, that is until the end. Could these crimes happen here? I was again reminded of Gothic tales, and I was sucked right in.

As it turned out, there’s a good reason why Elin Barnes’s novel reminded me of the Spanish writers. She’s from Madrid. Blood Allegiance contains elements of modern Gothic fiction: rationality vs. irrationality, guilt, strangeness within the familiar, monsters (human ones in this book), and abjection. What a master of suspense, twisting her plot in surprising directions as it weaves around the central story creating a maze of relationships, motivations, violence, and secrets: the lead Santa Clara criminalist is found dismembered at a local restaurant and the crime scene is tagged with gang graffiti. Detective Darcy Lynch (who we know from the first two books in this series) is wading into unknown territory when he’s sent on loan to CATCH, the Cross-Agency Tactical California Homicide Unit. But the case carries more weight for Darcy than apprehending the man who slaughtered a colleague. If he fails, he won’t be reassigned to the task force and his career could be over.
Another member of the unit is gunned down and a drone crashes into a San Jose Police Department helicopter turning the case into a bloody disaster. Lynch must stop one, or two, of the most vicious California gangs before they execute his entire team.


The characterization is multilayered. Protagonist, Darcy Lynch, and antagonist, Oscar Amaro are complex and individualized. Both are damaged and both have the capacity for “getting the job done” at whatever cost, yet are imbued with deep humanity. The surprise ending showcases these two characters as clouded mirrors of each other. The secondary characters are also rounded: Sorenson, Lynch’s overweight and gritty partner, Quinn, the sergeant with a deep secret that leads him to a crisis of heart, and Chavo Buenavente, of the rival gang and Oscar’s nemesis all have distinct personalities and distinguishable speech patterns. The characters are many, and their relationships are webbed. I found the hierarchy of gang members most interesting and well-researched, as are the portrayals of law enforcement agencies and employees. Barnes does her homework.

Barnes uses language and plot to instill uneasiness and fear in the reader. Her diction is less elaborate and ornate than the Gothic literature of the past. Instead, it reflects the language of everyday life in Silicon Valley in 2017. One reviewer from the Silicon Valley said, “The characters sound and behave like South Bay folks do.” I found the book to be easy to read and authentic in narrative and dialog.

Thematically Blood Allegiance raises serious questions about integrity, honor and the bonds of family and fraternity. It also sheds light on one of elite Northern California’s dirty problems swept under the rug: gangs. There’s a lot to think about after putting the book down—but don’t expect too much pondering during this action packed page-turner!


I’m not a Spanish Literature scholar, but I’m betting Ms. Barnes was introduced to and influenced by the Spanish misterio (mystery) genre in school: serial novels inspired by Eugène Sue's bestseller Les Mystères de Paris (1841-1843). The genre is in fact a spin-off of 19th century French Gothic fiction and represents an attempt to explore society in an urban context. The misterios actively participated in the discourses of their day, as does the Darcy Lynch Series. Serial novels like the misterios and the Darcy Lynch Series act as foundational narratives that record the new order of society. The misterios presented by the novels were in part the mysteries of the new society in the 1800s, one that its readers were learning to navigate—just like the new cyber world of our century. It’s been said that [Spanish misterios] are stories of patriarchal systems in crisis and the consequences of social transgression and relevant today.


The Gothic form is able to articulate the anxieties of society. Blood Allegiance employs the Gothic tropes of family romance, incarceration and contamination to represent the conflicting ideologies of the 21st century. I congratulate Elin Barnes on taking her place in the venerated tradition of the Spanish misterio—21st Century style!

Elin Barnes grew up in Spain. Her father is a film director and her mother a Swedish author (with a past life as an actress).

After graduating HS, Elin pursued her dream of becoming an airline pilot. When her eyesight impeded her to fly passenger aircrafts, she switched gears and obtained a BA in Philosophy. After a short stint working for a criminal appeals lawyer, Elin returned to Spain to get her MA in International Commerce.

For the last decade she’s worked in technology for companies like, AT&T, T-Mobile, Google, Microsoft, TiVo, and Samsung. She is on the Board of Sisters in Crime Northern California.

Her passions for law, technology, and thrillers inspired Elin to write the Darcy Lynch Series of thrillers set in Silicon Valley, where innovation is always brewing.


Right Wrong Thing for Ellen

The world of policing is more complicated and intricate than I’d realized from watching cop shows on TV and reading procedurals. Sure Kate Beckett and her team are mandated to see a psychologist when they shoot someone or each other, but somehow the importance of the psychologist and the scope of duty and moral responsibility just hasn’t sunk into my thick brain until reading The Right Wrong Thing. For one thing, those other fictional psychologists are usually bit-part characters used to support the main characters in their stories. In Ellen Kirschman’s series the story is Dot Meyerhoff’s, the consulting psychologist for Silicon Valley’s Kenilworth Police Department.

The Right Wrong Thing is Ellen Kirschman’s second book in the Dot Meyerhoff series following acclaimed Burying Ben. 51SKPzn3txL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Right Wrong Thing exposes readers to the world of the police department: the culture, the politics, and the whys and wherefore’s of police decision, action and the consequences of both. Kirschman should know. She’s worked as a police and public safety psychologist for over thirty years and has been honored with the California Psychological Society’s award for her contribution to psychology. Her experience shines through, illuminating police work in a way that has given me new understanding and a much deeper sympathy for the heroic men and women who take on the job of keeping us safe. I had no idea I would learn so much from a police thriller when Net Galley sent an ARC for review.

Kirschman tackles several of society’s big ticket issues in the book: sexism, racism, police brutality and post-traumatic stress disorder—all through the point of view of dedicated and deeply concerned psychologist, Dr. Dot Meyerhoff. After Dr. Meyerhoff has signed off on her pre-employment psychological assessment, rookie cop Randy Spelling accidentally shoots and kills a pregnant black teen. The doctor is determined to do the right thing by Randy and the department, but Randy, already suffering with PTSD and remorse, proves a challenge to counseling. When she insists on making amends to the victim’s family, contrary to the advice of the department, the consequences are disastrous. Dr. Meyerhoff, against the new chief’s orders is stubbornly determined to uncover what has happened. She puts together a small team of misfit allies to investigate, jeopardizing her career with the department and her life as she closes in on Randy’s killer.


I admired Meyerhoff’s right-on assessments of the situation and her sometimes brilliant handling of things on the one hand, and I shook my head in disbelief at her sometimes stupid moves and her blatant disregard of her superior. The dichotomous aspects of her personality are part of what make middle-aged Dot Meyerhoff an interesting character. She’s intelligent, caring, dedicated, reckless, and stubborn and questions herself the way we all do over a glass of wine. I’d like to sit down and chat with her about—anything. The conversation would be sure to take turns I’d never see coming and I’d come away seeing a new side to the issue. She’s guided by a strong sense of justice and not afraid to go against convention to follow it, even when she’s clearly erring. Dot Meyerhoff is flawed like the rest of us, but she’s willing to speak her mind when it’s unpopular, be kind to people who work against her and learn from her mistakes—although I expect Dr. Meyerhoff will be just as stubborn and reckless in solving her next case. I’m counting on it, in fact.

After a densely packed, fact-laden opening, I found I couldn’t put The Right Wrong Thing down. Kirschman’s experience and deep knowledge of human behavior shine through her plot and the emotion packed into this novel grabbed me and kept me reading. This is what is important to her. Kirschman states in her biography, “writing mysteries allows me to explore the hidden complexities and emotional costs of being a clinician.” Interesting, no? Kirschman is teaching readers about her world and learning from herself at the same time. It’s bound to pay off in the books to come.

Since I read The Right Wrong Thing it’s been voted a finalist in the Fiction: thriller/adventure category of the USA Best Book Awards. Congratulations to Ellen Kirschman. And thank you Net Galley, I might not have chosen a procedural-style thriller from the shelves, but I’m looking forward to the third of this fascinating and instructive series.


I just can't wait for this event. Not only are these authors my "Sisters" and friends, but I'm reviewing some of their books. How wonderful to be able to hear the authors read from them. I hope some of you will join me at the Showcase.


Annual Fall Showcase


Books Inc. in The Marina

 Here's the information:

The Northern California Chapter of Sisters in Crime proudly presents their Annual Fall Showcase! Featuring Juliet Blackwell, author of Spellcasting in Silk: A Witchcraft MysteryHeather Haven, author of Murder Is a Family Business; Ellen Kirschman, author of The Right Wrong Thing; Bette J.J. Lamb, authors of The Killing Vote and Bone Dust; Vinnie Hansen, contributor to the anthology Destination: Mystery; Eileen Magill, author of House of Homicide; Camille Minichino (writing as Jean Flowers), author of Death Takes Priority; and William Wallace, author of Dead Heat with a Reaper.

Event date:  Saturday, November 7, 2015 - 12:00pm

Event address:  Books Inc.     2251 Chestnut St, San Francisco, CA

And come back soon to read my review of Ellen Kirschman's wonderful police drama, The Right Wrong Thing. Don't miss the previously posted review of The Killing Vote.

ISBN: 9780451465788
Availability: In Stock -Select for Store Locations
Published: New American Library - July 7th, 2015

ISBN: 9780988408692
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Published: Wives of Bath Press - January 2011

ISBN: 9781608091546
Availability: In Stock -Select for Store Locations
Published: Oceanview Publishing - October 6th, 2015