Shaber, Sarah R. 1951-
Shaber, Sarah R. 1951-
Born December 4, 1951, in Washington, DC; daughter of Frank and Frances Rock; married Steve Shaber (an attorney); children: Sam, Katie. Education: Duke University, graduated, 1973.
Writer and novelist. Has worked as an editorial assistant, an advertising copywriter, and the executive director of a nonprofit organization.
Malice Domestic Award for best first traditional mystery, 1996, for Simon Said.
"SIMON SHAW" MYSTERY SERIES
Simon Said, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Snipe Hunt, Thomas Dunne (New York, NY), 2000.
The Fugitive King, Thomas Dunne (New York, NY), 2002.
The Bug Funeral, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Shell Game, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2007.
Sarah R. Shaber has written a number of mystery novels featuring Simon Shaw, a history professor and part-time sleuth. The first Simon Shaw novel, Simon Said, is set at Kenan College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Library Journal contributor Rex E. Klett remarked that the "setting and historic elements should please most readers." A mansion once belonging to the Bloodworth family has been deeded to the college, which has leased it to the local preservation society. During an archaeological dig on the grounds, the skeletal remains of a woman with a bullet hole through her skull are found, and Simon Shaw, a young Pulitzer Prize-winning history professor who wrote a history of the mansion, is called in. Simon identifies the woman as Anne Bloodworth, heiress to the estate, who disappeared in 1926. As the investigation progresses, Simon meets with several accidents, and it soon becomes obvious that someone wants to prevent him from learning more. A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that the characters of Simon, police counsel Julia McGloughlan, and Sergeant Gates "are realistically portrayed." In reviewing Simon Said for Booklist, Gail Pool called it a "personable book, with a likable, vulnerable protagonist [and] an abundance of wry humor."
Simon returns in Snipe Hunt, set on Pearlie Beach, an island off the North Carolina coast. He is joined for the Thanksgiving holiday by his friend Julia, archaeologist David Morgan, and his colleague Marcus Cleggs, who arrives with his wife and three daughters. Simon is thrust into another mystery from the past when a body is found offshore in a World War II diving suit containing Confederate gold coins. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the mystery an "appealing cozy, which pleasingly mixes regional history and lore, a bit of romance, and a soupcon of suspense." Klett felt that the "beach scenes, folksy locals, and mild humor" would be especially appealing to regional audiences.
In The Fugitive King, Simon is accosted at gunpoint by an escaped convict, Roy Freedman, who needs Simon's help to prove his claim that he is innocent of a murder he was convicted of many years earlier. In 1958, Freedman's girlfriend went missing, and he later confessed to killing her, which earned him a harsh prison sentence; now her remains have been discovered and Freedman is desperate to exonerate himself. Simon agrees to help in order to placate the gunman, intending to ignore the request, but when his own personal life takes a difficult turn after a bitter argument with his girlfriend, he decides he needs something to keep his mind occupied. He heads across the state to visit his aunt Rae, uncle Mel, and various cousins, and to look into Freedman's story. In the process, Simon begins to think that Freedman is indeed innocent, as he runs up against a lying sheriff, an amazing lack of evidence tying Freedman to the crime, and the question of why Freedman pleaded guilty if he was innocent. A Publishers Weekly critic remarked favorably on the character of Simon, stating that he "comes across as likable and all too human—we understand why his relations are glad to see him." A Kirkus Reviews critic found that "if you can overlook Simon's tedious romantic dithering, there's much to admire" in the novel. Booklist contributor Sue O'Brien called The Fugitive King "an engaging mystery in a too-little-known series."
The ever-skeptical Simon brushes up against the supernatural in The Bug Funeral. Helen Williams, the goddaughter of one of Simon's friends, is haunted by flashbacks and visions she cannot explain. Ever since she was a child, Helen has believed she is the reincarnation of the Victorian-era Annie Evans, experiencing highly realistic and frightening visions and emotions that she attributes to the long-dead woman. Worse, Helen has seen—and felt—that Annie killed her own child and buried the infant in a gloomy churchyard. Simon's initial search turns up no evidence, but events occur that convince him to dig deeper. Annie, it seems, really did exist, and she was head of the baby cottage in the Christian orphanage in Raleigh, North Carolina. As the investigation progresses and Helen's story becomes more plausible, modern-day dangers arise for her and Simon, which point to old secrets kept, current evidence hidden, and a rich, politically ambitious family with much to lose if Annie's, and Helen's, story becomes known. A Kirkus Reviews contributor expressed disappointment with the nature of the novel's resolution but noted that readers who enjoy Simon's character will "enjoy his trademark professorial manner and his uncharacteristically circumspect ruminations on love." A Publishers Weekly critic noted the book's "credible characters, smooth and natural dialogue," and the "creative solution to the mystery" that place the work "well above the cozy average."
In Simon's next adventure, Shell Game, crime hits close to home when his best friend, fellow academician David Morgan, is murdered. The subsequent investigation uncovers a number of possible motives, the most significant being that Morgan was at the center of a controversial archeological decision determining the home of the remains of a prehistoric Native American. Morgan's sister also surfaces as a suspect when the investigating detective uncovers a substantial life insurance policy that the sister stands to inherit. "Amorous interludes lend some spice," noted a Publishers Weekly reviewer, and Sue O'Brien pointed out in a review for Booklist that Shaber writes in a "new dimension to the likable Simon by portraying his struggle to get over a failed romantic relationship." A Kirkus Reviews contributor appreciated the book's "interesting prehistory background" but found it a "lesser effort" than Shaber's previous novels.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1997, Gail Pool, review of Simon Said, p. 1414; September 1, 2002, Sue O'Brien, review of The Fugitive King, p. 64; January 1, 2007, Sue O'Brien, review of Shell Game, p. 66.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of The Fugitive King, p. 998; March 1, 2004, review of The Bug Funeral, p. 204; January 15, 2007, review of Shell Game, p. 55.
Library Journal, April 1, 1997, Rex E. Klett, review of Simon Said, p. 133; February 1, 2000, Rex E. Klett, review of Snipe Hunt, p. 121; September 1, 2002, Rex E. Klett, review of The Fugitive King, p. 218; May 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of The Bug Funeral, p. 144.
Publishers Weekly, February 10, 1997, review of Simon Said, p. 70; February 28, 2000, review of Snipe Hunt, p. 66; September 2, 2002, review of The Fugitive King, p. 58; April 5, 2004, review of The Bug Funeral, p. 44; December 4, 2006, review of Shell Game, p. 36.
Sarah Shaber Home Page,http://www.sarahshaber.com (October 1, 2007).