1962 Murder mystery marred by typographic errors

The Palimpsest Murders–A European Travel Mystery
by Reed Stirling

Airdrie: BWL Publishing, 2023
$18.99 / 9780228626268

Reviewed by Valerie Green


Reed Stirling (Shades of Persephone) begins his book by giving readers the meaning of the word “palimpsest,” which features in his title. He explains: “Palimpsest—A manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced, earlier writing: something reused, or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.” He also includes a quote from The Tempest, “what’s past is prologue,” that is equally puzzling—but intriguing.

Once the story begins with a Prologue that starts with the words “Day One: check-in on the Iphigenia, our Boat and Bike home for the week, was at one pm. Day seven: at seven-thirty am, the body of one of our group was discovered floating in the oily turbidity between the stern of the boat and the concrete quay,” I felt sure I’d be in for a first-rate mystery story.

Certainly, Stirling’s story has all the ingredients for an Agatha Christie-type murder mystery. A group of people gather in Amsterdam to board a boat for a Boat and Bike tour that will cruise the inland waterways of Europe and stop at various sights to allow passengers to tour on bikes through city, town, or countryside. 

Geoff Canter, a middle-aged Canadian, tells the story from his point of view and becomes the observer of all the other guests. The group tour leader is Joost Goosens, who welcomes everyone aboard the Iphigenia on the first day.  

Author Reed Stirling

We soon meet two young women, Vanessa De La Croix, from Ireland, and her companion Lucy Hunter. They appear to be working acquaintances and good friends. Vanessa is a professional photographer and Lucy an investigative reporter. Stirling then introduces Frank Veridis, an inquisitive character who befriends Geoff Canter. Geoff tells him that he is travelling alone because unfortunately his wife, Penny, who had arranged the whole trip for them, was unable to accompany him at the last moment due to a leg injury. In addition, Penny’s mother, a woman “given to endless histrionic lament,” is in need of “care after taking a fall and sustaining a serious head injury. She’d been played just prior to that by a telephone scammer who somehow had detailed knowledge of all her finances.”

Other characters soon appear. There’s brash, arrogant Mitchell Monk and his travelling companion/mistress, Aimee Reeves, an attractive much younger woman. There are also two English ladies, Olivia Nunn and Melinda Mancipal, from Cambridge, both in their fifties, who, Geoff remarks, “both seemed physically capable, or at least as capable as I believed myself to be at the time.”

There’s a Dutch threesome—Niels Visser, his wife Beppie , and their grandson Pieter—and two Japanese gentlemen, nicknamed Hash and Kash.  

Into this eclectic group, the author adds a dysfunctional family the tour group members call the Conrad Corps. The strange extended family is headed by Conrad Steele, his son Boyd Alexander, his wife Kat, and her two daughters from an earlier marriage, Alexsis and Isla. Their father, Victor Troyes is deceased, but his brother, Virgil, Virgil’s wife Eleni, and their daughter Candace are also there, as is Fletcher Christian, known as Flex.

In my opinion the Cowichan Bay-based author includes far too many characters. As the story progresses, it’s difficult to keep them all straight. Nonetheless, the story holds one’s attention. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Geoff, the observer, ends every day with an email he sends to his wife Penny which keeps the reader advised of what is happening. A clever ploy.

Even though the idea behind this mystery murder story is a good one, I found myself shocked by the number of typographical errors that jumped out on many pages. Misspelled words (such as “manny” for “many”) grab the eye, as do large gaps between words and numerous other typos, far too frequent to list. The most jarring one appears in the section title “Ghent to To Bruges,” which should read “Ghent to Bruges.” At that point, I wondered if the book had even been edited or proofread, because even the Table of Contents at the beginning is incomplete.

This is a sad reflection on some self-published books, especially those with so much promise as this one had.

Once the body of one of these many characters is discovered on the seventh day of the tour, Geoff, Frank Veridis, and many other guests try to solve the mystery of who would want one of them dead. 

After police interrogate everyone and finally allow most of the bike tour to leave and continue on with their own travel plans, the book becomes more of a travel story. Geoff spends time in Paris, then meets up with David, his son, at the ancient site of Mycenae, where David is studying archaeology. Along the way Geoff is informed by email of the second death on the Iphigenia, which has been ruled as a suicide. 

But what really happened and what is the truth? And how were the many incongruous, strange events during the Boat and Bike tour connected to the death mask of Agamemnon? Discovering the truth is something Stirling’s readers will be left to discover for themselves.




Valerie Green

Valerie Green was born and educated in England where she studied journalism and law. Her passion was always writing from the moment she first held a pen in her hand. After working at the world-famous Foyles Books on Charing Cross Road, London, followed by a brief stint with M15 and legal firms, she moved to Canada in 1968 where she married and raised a family, while embarking on a long career as a freelance writer, columnist, and author of over twenty non-fiction historical and true-crime books. Hancock House recently released the first three books—Providence, Destiny, and Legacy—of Valerie’s four-book historical fiction series The McBride Chronicles, a historical family saga that brings early BC history alive. Now semi-retired (although writers never really retire!) she enjoys taking short road trips around BC with her husband, watching their two beloved grandsons grow up and, of course, writing. [Editor’s note: Valerie Green has recently reviewed books by Padma Viswanathan, Carolyn Redl, Jennifer Manuel, Beka Shane DenterS. Lesley Buxton and Sue Harper, Jennilee Austria-Bonifacio, John D’Eathe for BCR.]



The British Columbia Review

Interim Editors, 2023-24: Trevor Marc Hughes (non-fiction), Brett Josef Grubisic (fiction)
Publisher: Richard Mackie

Formerly The Ormsby Review, The British Columbia Review is an on-line book review and journal service for BC writers and readers. The Advisory Board now consists of Jean Barman, Wade Davis, Robin Fisher, Barry Gough, Hugh Johnston, Kathy Mezei, Patricia Roy, Maria Tippett, and Graeme Wynn. Provincial Government Patron (since September 2018): Creative BC. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. The British Columbia Review was founded in 2016 by Richard Mackie and Alan Twigg.

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

10 comments on “1962 Murder mystery marred by typographic errors

  1. Sorry you felt that way but my review (marred by so many typos) was how I saw the story. I did mention the brilliance of the plot setting and the many interesting characters and their motivations, but then left it up to other readers to discover the truth.

  2. A somewhat skewed review, failing to comment on the intricacies of plot, character, motivation, and discovery. Unfortunately, the palimpsest theme, a central construct of the narrative, is not explored.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This