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Reviews of
An Uncertain Currency
Clyde Lynwood Sawyer, Jr 
and  Frances Witlin
ISBN 0-9661072-7-6       Softcover     $14.95

January Magazine
Mostly Fiction

BOOKLIST - March 1, 2000

This is not the first novel to feature a psychic as an amateur sleuth, but it is one of the better ones. Sawyer and Witlin have crafted an intricate story (it begins with a suicide that might not be suicide, but that's just the jumping-off point) that challenges not only their fictional sleuth but his readers as well. The wonderfully named Mario Castigliani, who makes his living as a performing psychic, is a fresh and interesting character; it's especially nice to see him say what many readers will surely be thinking: that almost all so-called psychics are charlatans. Despite being skeptical about psychic phenomena, the authors ask us to, please, just for the sake of argument, assume what this one man does is genuinely clairvoyant. Those able to make that assumption will be rewarded with a fine crime novel. David Pitt


Review by Chrissi Rating (8/10)
Well, what can I say? This was the book that we were very kindly asked to read and review by co-author Mr Clyde Lynwood Sawyer Jr, and I must say that I really enjoyed it.
"An Uncertain Currency" is a beautiful two tier story, with the past and the present intertwined. Our main character is Mario Castigliani, an erratically gifted psychic who arrives in small town America, where he is asked by the local lawman to lend his talent to a series of suicides. The suspicions remain to the end, as to whether there have been any untoward happenings. This is linked with some very strange relationships and undercurrents among members of this small community.
It is a very low key mystery story, almost an aside to the man himself, his talent and how he came to the small town from rural Italy. There is a certain pathos to Mario, how his talent has shaped his life, from the first discovery to the honing of the show-business charlatans act, to the circumstances which led him so low as to be in this small town in America.
His relationship with his talent is the Uncertain Currency of the title, and it would have been very easy I think to allow the talent to be the story, as opposed to the man himself. I liked Mario, he is a lovely, flawed character, very human. It was a nice counterpoint to the superhuman power of his talent.
I have never been to America, nor have I been to Italy, but the authors have a great affection for the rural communities of which they write, and it communicates very well to the reader. The Italian meal on the menu would have tempted me, but the end result I agree with Mario would have left me unable to clear my plate.
The book, however, leaves me with no such problem, "Give Me More!" .
Chrissi (27th September 2000)

From January Magazine   
An Uncertain Currency was named in their Best of 2000 Crime Fiction list

An Uncertain Currency by Clyde Lynwood Sawyer, Jr. and Frances Witlin (Avocet Press)

Ostensibly about murder in a small Southern town, the true narrative centers around Mario Castigliani, "Internationally Acclaimed Psychic." Handsome, silver-haired, "leonine" Mario is pausing in Floraville to perform his stage show -- part vaudeville shtick and part miraculous -- when the local police chief asks for his assistance in the homicide of a local union activist. Mario is truly gifted, can read all but two per cent of the population, but la Lucia (his Muse?) is as fickle as any prima donna. When she deserts him, the charming and aristocratic Mario can only wait for her approval. While he works to resolve the murders -- and there are several -- we discover a most remarkable human being. Beautifully written and carefully crafted, it took 20 years to write and the authors' love of storytelling and writing is visible on every page. One of the few contemporary mysteries worth a permanent place in your personal library. -- Frederick Zackel

From Mostly Fiction.com

The Rotary Club of Floraville, Georgia has invited Mario Castigliani to perform one of his "internationally famous" psychic shows as a fundraiser. Just as Mario arrives in town, one of its local celebrities, an old black man named Roy Washington, is found hanging in his home. Police Chief, Beaufort Tyler, suspects murder even when the coroner accepts it as suicide. Several years before, the former Chief of Police had also hung himself. A rare way to kill oneself in this Southern town. And twice doesn't add up.

Tyler has never made use of a psychic in any investigations before, but at the encouragement of a woman friend, Tyler decides to try out the skills of the town's special guest. After all, the poster says that Castigliani has helped in previous murder investigations. As far as Mario Castigliani's psychic abilities, "My gift is a mystery, even to me. I cannot pretend to understand it. But it is genuine. Perhaps somewhere there are others who possess it also. In all of my life, I have met only one. The rest were entertainers at best, charlatans at worst."

Castigliani first experienced his abilities when he was an adolescent at an archaeological site in Perugia, Italy. The power, which he calls La Lucia, suddenly showed him where an ancient lion coin lay. From this time on, he found the miracle of his powers to be "fickle and demanding." That is to say, the powers are not always there. And this uncertainty is what makes this novel interesting and unique.

When La Lucia is there, Castigliani can read the thoughts of almost anyone. A few people are blocked to him, but that is rare. At the beginning of the investigation, La Lucia is strong, and Castigliani hears the thoughts of the town people regarding the hanging. He also uses these powers to prepare for the show that he'll be performing later in the week. Since he can't count on La Lucia being present during a show, he has to use many of the traditional methods of preparation as well, such as taking up a generous offer to read through next week's newspaper column at the office of the Floraville Weekly Clarion.

Castigliani is a well spoken, considerate gentleman. Although he has spent the better part of his life in America, he is still a foreigner with a difficult name that most people can't say. Despite his foreignness, he finds his way through the people and ways of Floraville who are, for the most part, gracious to their guest. Floraville is a mill town and at its heart is the family that owns the mill. Like one would expect of any town divided by those that own and those that labor, there is opposition as well as the gossip and speculation. And well kept secrets. Castigliani is soon in the thick of it. During the course of the investigation, we run into various attitudes on race relations, euthanasia, unions, religious organizations and the self imposed rules of social strata. At the very heart of the novel is the exploration into integrity. The key to La Lucia's powers lie in its honest usage.

An Uncertain Currency moves back and forth between the current investigation and Castigliani's past, explaining how he came to be the once internationally famous psychic to a man that can barely afford to travel to the rare booking such as this one. We are transported from Italy to America, past and present with ease, we follow the details and events of the murder investigation, while being filled in on the history of Castigliani's special powers. La Lucia leaves him soon after accepting the job to help with the investigation, so while Castigliani may be a psychic, he relies upon the same showmanship and inductive reasoning skills that would be used during any show to help solve the murder. And speaking of shows, my favorite part of the book is Castigliani's performance held in the high school auditorium. By this point, we also know the town's people as well as Castigliani and that part of the book is good fun. Not only do we "see" the show, the authors treat us to the backstage preparation and secrets that any of the best entertainers would use.

This is an intelligent, extremely readable novel with many well written and distinct characters set in a town so clearly depicted, that I was ready to adopt it as my own. I got an absolute kick out of the idea that the best restaurant in town is Bonnie's home - where you have a choice of sitting out on the porch or at her dining room table. I so wanted to drive over and join Tyler and Mario for a late night summer dinner. Whereas the idea of a psychic solving murders would normally turn me off, the authors have written a remarkable book in which even the most considerable skeptic is bound to be mesmerized. (10-29-00)

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