Link: In the Margin Review

Journal of the British Institute of Graphology

BOOK REVIEW - Poison Pen by Sheila Lowe
Reviewer: Elaine Quigley

Is there any other book with a Graphologist as the heroine? It's a great idea by Sheila Lowe to use her expertise to not only create a credible and likeable character, handwriting expert Claudia Rose, but also in the course of the story to provide graphological information that is clearly expressed and reflects the working life of a graphologist. Not only that, but student graphologists will find this entertaining book provides opportunities to learn aspects of graphology while reading an exciting story. What a good way to learn!

Handwriting Expert Sheila Lowe
With more than 35 years experience in the field of handwriting, Sheila Lowe has been qualified as a handwriting expert in the California Court system since 1985. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology and was certified by the American Handwriting Analysis Foundation in 1981, as well as the Society of Handwriting Analysts in 1985. She is an active member of the National Association of Document Examiners.

Lowe's story is a good murder mystery, keeping readers on their toes throughout. Claudia comes across as we'd all like to be, busy with general work, but also able to rise to the challenge of finding if the suicide note, written in block capitals, is genuine. If not, who is the murderer? With lots of reference to handwriting samples and their interpretation along the way. The language is challenging and may not appeal to those don't like earthy expressions, but it does fit in with the characters and adds to the realism of the story.

There is also romance and this is a bonus to the storyline, as it brings warmth to what would otherwise have been a fairly grim tale of murder and people living behind their personas. The reader is given plenty of challenges to decide who and who isn't telling the truth, along with the chance to join Claudia as she interprets writing that has been described clearly enough to make this an enjoyable challenge. Once started, the book was difficult to put down and every spare minute went into reading it to the end.

Victoria Kennedy - Reviewer,

Claudia Rose attends the funeral of former friend, Lindsey Alexander, a scheming, manipulative creature with few friends, but many enemies. The police have decided that Lindsey’s death was a suicide, but Lindsay’s partner doesn’t agree. The strange note found by the police looks like a suicide note, but handwriting expert Claudia is not so sure.

To see if Lindsey wrote the note, Claudia must compare it to other handwriting samples of Lindsey’s. It’s not an easy task considering the note’s printed and Lindsay wrote mostly in cursive.

Claudia’s discovery of child abuse in Lindsey’s past makes her more sympathetic to finding out whether her former friend killed herself. Someone brutally attacks the client who’s hired her to analyze Lindsey’s note and Claudia knows that she has no choice but to uncover the truth.

When she meets the detective in charge of the case, Claudia finds herself drawn to him. Before long there’s an intense romantic involvement between the two.

More evidence involving people in high places complicates the investigation. Claudia’s continued snooping around soon puts her in more danger than she bargained for. The race is on to solve the case and there’s no guarantee that Claudia won’t be the next victim.

The author is an expert on handwriting analysis and gives the reader needed insight into the profession. It’s a well written, engrossing tale. Adding romance to the mix only increased its charm. There’s no mediocrity to this book it’s a winner!

The next book in the Claudia Rose series Written in Blood will be out in September of 2009. Sheila Lowe’s other books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Handwriting Analysis.

Mists and Stars Review:

Linsey Alexander's life was not one to admire; drugs, sex, and blackmail were her favorite vices. The way she treated supposed friends and clients whom she was supposed to be promoting was deplorable. One would almost expect her to be murdered, but when she turns up dead, everyone quickly accepts the verdict of suicide; everyone, that is, except her one time friend, Claudia Rose, a forensic handwriting expert who sees something off in the note left behind. Despite the facts to the contrary, Claudia digs for the truth, in the process finding out more than she really wanted to know about Linsey. With the help of a handsome cop, Claudia searches for justice, but might prove to be another victim.

Mysteries have always been, at least I have found them to be, a source of great learning. While they challenge your mind with a puzzle, readers also learn new facts via the eyes of the amateur sleuth's discoveries or expertise. Claudia Rose's insights into psychology and forensic graphology are as fascinating as the murder itself. Readers' can look forward to having their own store of information broadened in a very enjoyable fashion.

Mystery Scene Review:

Claudia Rose is not particularly saddened at the death of her old high school "friend? Lindsey Alexander. Lindsey cheated and betrayed almost everyone she came in contact with, her specialty being stealing other girls' boyfriends.

When Lindsey is found drowned in a jacuzzi, her body filled with pills and alcohol, the police rule it a suicide. However, her assistant Ivan is sure she was murdered, and he enlists Claudia, a well-known graphologist, to help determine whether the enigmatic suicide note is genuine. Claudia's search for a handwriting sample leads her to Lindsey's disgusting brother Earl, whose primary concern is whether Lindsey's will includes enough money for him to continue his drug habit. After he is brutally beaten, the incoherent Ivan leads Claudia and police detective Joel Janovic to tapes of Lindsey having kinky sex with well-known men in the community--an aspiring politician, an eminent plastic surgeon, even the clergyman who presided at her funeral. It almost goes without saying that Lindsey was blackmailing her clients.

Lowe tantalizes us with the prospect that each of these subjects is capable of murder in order to protect his reputation. All of them are in the running until the very end.

The characters, a disparate bunch, come vividly to life, with a plot that keeps the reader engrossed from page one although Lowe's graphic depictions of Lindsey's S&M parties make one want to sprint to the shower.

--Mary Elizabeth Devine, Mystery Scene

This review appeared in the Spring 2007 issue (#99) of the magazine.

Heartland Reviews:

A high visibility Hollywood public relations maven is found dead with an apparent suicide note lying nearby. Handwriting analysis expert, Claudia Rose, is hired by the PR lady's partner to determine if the note's printing is indeed genuine or a forgery, which may make the case the difference between suicide or murder. Claudia's efforts are hampered by the murder of her client and the complications of a developing romantic attraction between her and the investigating homicide detective. Further investigations open up a political can of worms fraught with kinky sex and blackmail.

The author, who is an internationally renowned handwriting expert in her own right, is also the author of two bestselling nonfiction books on the subject and the author of an award-winning software package for handwriting analysis, brings an impressive sense of reality to this, her first fiction effort. We rated it a very high four hearts.

--Bob Spear, Heartland Reviews

Publisher's Weekly (Monday , January 29, 2007):

Suicide or murder? Only the graphologist knows for sure in this dynamite debut, the first in a new series, from forensic handwriting expert Lowe ("Handwriting of the Famous and Infamous"). When celebrity publicist Lindsey Alexander drowns in her hot tub at her L.A. penthouse apartment, Lindsey's business manager, Ivan Novak, hires handwriting analyst Claudia Rose to look into the authenticity of the block-printed note left at the scene. Ivan believes it was penned by a murderer, not a suicide victim. Claudia, who was once Lindsey's friend before being alienated by her pathologically malicious behavior, isn't surprised to learn that Lindsey liked to blackmail her famous clients by threatening to tarnish rather than shine their images. When hunky LAPD detective Joel Jovanic enters the investigation, the "grapho lady" and the cop make a hot team, in and out of the sheets. The author's large nonfiction fan base augurs well for the series. "Author tour. (Mar.)" Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

More reviews to follow...


* Publisher's Weekly 01/29/2007 pg. 45 (ISBN 0977627608, Paperback) - *Starred Review

"A stellar debut novel. A fresh voice in a crowded genre. Sheila Lowe does for L.A. what Carl Hiaasen does for South Florida. Highly-recommended."

--Sheldon Siegel. New York Times bestselling author of The Confession.

"Be careful! You'll start to be afraid of what your signature really says about you. Sheila Lowe tosses you into the science of handwriting analysis, and the craft of graphology. Her protagonist, Claudia Rose has a mind as sharp as a quill, and the guts of a burglar. Lowe's characters are eccentric and memorable, but it is Claudia, with all her reserve and her unpredictable spontaneity, who will win you over."

--David Skibbins, Malice Domestic winning author of Eight of Swords

"Sit down in your favorite chair, put on your reading glasses and enjoy Poison Pen by Sheila Lowe. Interesting, provocative, bizarre, a real page turner from beginning to end. I couldn't put it down even when I passed my regular bedtime. Her victim reaches out from the grave to sting the ones she loves and loathes. So many dark characters, a story with more twists and turns that leaves the reader with no choice but to read on and on 'til the exciting finish. Sheila Lowe is Claudia Rose and Claudia Rose is Sheila Lowe, a handwriting expert that weaves a story of brilliance, intrigue, with wit, sarcasm and pure story reading joy. I can't Wait for the next Claudia Rose Mystery."

--Jim Gray

"Handwriting expert and author, Sheila Lowe, knows her business, and has written a crime novel that supports the adage 'write what you know.' Not only is Poison Pen a first-rate suspense story, it also delivers an amazing behind-the-scenes look at forensic graphology."

--Jackie Houchin, Valley News