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The Moon Tunnel by Jim Kelly
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312349226
Date: 13 December 2005 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

At an abandoned WWII PoW camp in Ely, Britain, Dr. Azeglio Valgimigli is excavating an ancient chariot. Skeletal remains of a man are discovered lying in a tunnel dug beneath the camp. The man, who must've been a prisoner, was shot in the face. Strange is the fact that he was crawling into the camp instead of crawling away from it. During his investigation into the corpse's identity, reporter Philip Dryden learns that a series of art thefts and murders occurred while the Italians were incarcerated at this camp during WWII. Soon after the skeleton's discovery, a gruesome execution-style murder occurs at the excavation site. Is this murder linked to the theft of an invaluable painting? The painting depicts a little boy gazing at the moon--a painting that was hidden in what became known as The Moon Tunnel?

Jim Kelly's The Moon Tunnel is the superb third entry in the Philip Dryden series (following The Fire Baby and The Water Clock); it is a classic whodunit involving a gruesome cold case murder. The past strongly influences the present in this complex, fast-paced novel that has piled subplot upon subplot. Intermittent chapters describing historical events involving war crimes enhance the mystery. Themes of honor, betrayal and cowardice are prominent. The importance of love and family is also emphasized.

The Fens is the setting of The Moon Tunnel. It is an unusual landscape comprising innumerable fields and farmlands that are intersected and bisected by deep ditches (drains). Five years ago, one of these drains (Harrimere Drain) nearly took the life of Dryden and his actress wife, Laura, when their car plunged into it.

Unknown to an unconscious Dryden, who had already been transported to the hospital following the accident, Laura was left in a submerged vehicle for hours. Consequently, she now suffers from a rare phenomenon known as Locked in Syndrome (LIS). Even though she experiences episodes of temporary consciousness, she cannot physically move. Her mind remains locked inside a paralyzed body. Not knowing how long this will last, Dryden experiences much stress over the situation. Fortunately, Laura is able to communicate with him through a sophisticated computer known as the COMPASS. Through this machine, she is capable of typing her thoughts; occasionally, however, they appear jumbled, nearly cryptic. Furthermore, the COMPASS helps Laura surf the Internet, perform research, and provide Dryden with useful information that helps him solve mysteries.

Laura is keeping a file marked secret. Upon learning this, Dryden becomes angry. Keeping secrets from loved ones is another prominent theme in The Moon Tunnel. A lot of secrets involve events that transpired during WWII--a horrible, tumultuous time period which casts a spiritual shadow of gloom over the novel's plot. An actual fog of poisonous gas from a burning garbage dump casts a physical shadow of gloom over Ely. The poisonous gas produces a film of filth on everything it touches; it is disgusting.

A bizarre environment; gruesome murders, both past and present; detailed medical and police procedures; realistic characters; a terribly dysfunctional family; an extremely complex plot with numerous subplots; and a riveting mystery make The Moon Tunnel an unforgettable read that is one of Jim Kelly's best novels.

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