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Review: Cancelled: Stamps to Die For

CANCELLED: Stamps To Die For by Janet Feduska Cole. Pegasus Books, San Jose, California, January 2013, 182 pages.
Book Review by Ray Paul
Having just finished a second reading of Cancelled: Stamps to Die For, a short mystery/suspense novel written by Janet Feduska Cole, I’m struck by the similarity in our late-blooming writing backgrounds and the dramatic differences in our writing styles. While each of us turned to writing fiction after careers in technical writing or in my case business communications, Janet is a master of turning her historical and geographical research into a fascinating learning experience.
The story itself is a classic chase told in the first person. A female writer, Elyse, reconnects with a male friend from her past, Karl, who has a collection of stamps and women. Following his supposed death, she is moved to research and write an article about a stamp collection thought to have been stolen by certain Nazi leaders toward the end of WWII. While obtaining facts for her article from various locations around the globe, Elyse attracts a following of allies and evildoers interested in the results of her research. Among the latter is her ex-friend Karl, who has miraculously risen from the dead, and his newest female companion and members of a secret society of philatelists seem intent on doing her harm.
The highlight of the author’s story was reconnecting with my youthful stamp collecting history by recalling many of the famous stamps she lists in one of the chapters of the book. In addition, the references to World War II and the postwar Nazi migration to Argentina, rekindled my interest in that fateful period of our modern world. Equally enjoyable for me was reading her descriptions of the Southwestern United States and the petrography found there in certain Utah Canyons. Because the author implies her story is fictional, I suspect some of her places and references are made up. However, because the author writes so convincingly this reader was content to believe that all of the places and events in the story were real and historically accurate. Never once was I tempted to check out the validity of her details.
With the exception of some light asides by the protagonist narrator, the writing style is rather refined and academic for this particular genre, something I personally found refreshing. Overall, the plot kept my interest throughout and the story never labors. While I did have to go back and reread some chapters to make sure I was getting “it,” I chalked that up to poor reading rather than any flaw in the storytelling.
However, I do wish that the author would have developed her characters further. Because of a lack of emotional attachment, I found it hard to feel a strong level of fear or dread during the protagonist’s journey. Moreover, the evil pursuers always seemed more like nutty bunglers than vicious criminals. In her future writing I hope the author will shed her intellectual tendencies and dig into the hearts and guts of her characters so the reader can enjoy her story on several levels other than her intricate plot.
Although the book is short, it packed a punch and I enjoyed it enough to want to read the sequel.


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