| Third in the series of Mark Manning mysteries
by Michael Craft
Hardcover published June 1999
The holidays are approaching, but Chicago Journal reporter Mark Manning is anything but joyous. His career at the Journal has maxed out, and another birthday has him contemplating his own mortality. Though hes achieved emotional bedrock with architect Neil Waite, his lover of three years, Manning needs a major life change.
That change awaits him in the idyllic little Wisconsin town of Dumont, where his familys roots lie. Hes made plans to take over the local paper, to purchase the rambling old house on Prairie Street that he once visited as a child, and to reacquaint himself with his wealthy cousin, Suzanne Quatrain. Its a dream come true, but as Manning discovers soon after his arrival, the promise of a new beginning is shaded by something sinister, by dark secrets that someone wants left buried. It begins with a series of threatening letters. Then, on Christmas day, under his own roof, a killer strikes. In the words of our hero himself, This one has it alldeceit, greed, secrets, and lust. Not to mention murder.
Body Language represents a significant turning point in the Mark Manning series. Most obviously, the series moves north from Chicago to the fictitious town of Dumont in central Wisconsin. I myself moved to Wisconsin from Chicago some years ago, and I felt that Manning should follow me simply because this allows me to write about the setting with greater authority and confidence. Another crucial change in the series is its narrative style. Beginning with Body Language, Manning acts as a first-person narrator, spinning the whole tale in his mind. (The two previous books in the series employ a somewhat unusual third-person present-tense narration.) While this new first-person narration imposes certain plot limitations on me, the writer, it ultimately serves the reader by providing a much more intimate portrayal of Manning, his backstory, and the various forces that make him tick.
Drafting this story proved relatively easy for me, tempting me to believe that I may have truly found my voice in writing Body Language. For readers who are new to the series and who may be reluctant to start from the beginning, this installment provides an excellent point to jump in.
Oh yes, one last detail: I must acknowledge a debt of gratitude to Agatha Christie, master of this genre, one of whose stage plays inspired the core idea for the plot of Body Language. Which of her plays? The reference is cunningly buried in the text. Happy hunting!
Perfect just the way it is . . . The truth behind this well-designed mystery surfaces diabolically but cleverly, as readers are unable to stop reading until Michael Craft reveals who the culprit is. Adding to the fun is a twist that alters the Manning-Waite relationship and makes the audience want more crafty tales from this stupendous writer.
With beautifully drawn characters and a neatly twisted plot, Craft's winning mystery should satisfy many a reader.
Taking cues from Dame Agatha Christie, Craft has woven a fast-paced mystery that keeps the reader guessing the entire time.
Craft keeps things moving along smartly . . . his third outing is as stately and old-fashioned as a Gay Pride Agatha Christie.
Everybody loves a good murder mystery, and what a long way we've
come. Body Language is in the vein of Agatha Christie while portraying
a really nice, stable gay relationship . . . More, please.
A crackling good whodunit and a sobering depiction of the secrets families try to hide.
'Page-turner' is an overused term, but it absolutely applies to Body Language.
Craft excels at developing narrative momentum, picking up speed as he goes along. The reader can't turn the final pages fast enough.
Family secrets and forbidden desires earmark Michael Craft's novel as a forerunner in this genre. Written with warmth and a savvy awareness of the frailty of the human spirit, Body Language draws the reader into a world . . . strained to the breaking point by greed, jealousy, and death.
Mark Manning plans a new start in his Wisconsin hometown . . . A solid series addition.
Much of the success of the series is due to the tremendous appeal of Craft's unique and charismatic protagonist . . . the hunky Mark Manning.
Mark Manning is a man most readers would like as a friend and perhaps
more. Craft keeps him fresh, growing, and vitally aware of the pleasures
and accompanying wisdom of entering middle age . . . I am once again looking
forward to the next Mark Manning mystery.
In March 2002, the first three Mark Manning novelsFlight Dreams, Eye Contact, and Body Languagewere published as an 880-page omnibus edition in the Triangle Classics series from InsightOut Books. The text pages of the trilogy, priced at $14.99, are exact photomechanical reproductions from the original editions. InsightOut Books, associated with Book of the Month Club, can be visited at www.insightoutbooks.com.
Click here to read an excerpt from Body Language.
Click here to read a related interview by William E. Robbins.
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Click here to order Body Language (trade paperback) from Amazon.com.
Click here to order SIGNED copies.