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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Imaginiation on Board Author Reviews Elizabeth Fackler's "My Eyes Have a Cold Nose"

My Eyes Have a Cold Nose
Elizabeth Fackler
Sunstone Press
Box 2321, Santa Fe, NM
(800) 243-5644
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN-10: 0865346992
ISBN-13: 978-0865346994
$17.95 Amazon

Elizabeth Fackler’s My Eyes Have a Cold Nose, published by Sunstone Press is a great example of how an author can blend history, mystery, and fiction. Ms. Fackler begins with a historically accurate character, Elizabeth “Gigi” Garrett, daughter of sheriff Pat Garrett. Gigi Garrett lost her sight as a baby, but with her father’s encouragement, did the things a normal child would: went to school, climbed trees, rode horses, studied music and became a nationally known concert pianist.

My Eyes Have a Cold Nose opens during the Depression. Now in her mid-fifties, Ms. Garrett has retired from the concert stage and gives music lessons to the children in the New Mexico town where she has settled with her seeing-eye dog Teenie. The town and the dog are real. Ms. Fackler once lived in the house owned by Ms. Garrett. Discovery ot Teenie’s grave in the backyard led to the author’s interest in Gigi.

From the truth of Gigi Garrett’s life, Elizabeth Fackler develops a fictional mystery. Chauncy, an orphan who has spent his childhood shuttling between foster families, stands accused of murdering Gigi’s down-the-street neighbor, 15 year-old Eleanor Fielding. Gigi does not believe Chauncy to be guilty. Using her sharpened senses of touch, smell, taste, and hearing, she guides the local sheriff, Sly Rendt, through a maze of clues and possible suspects.

In the process, truth weaves back into fiction. The real Ms. Garrett somehow learned to identify color by odor, an ability which may have combined with faint visual memories since she was not born blind. She could also estimate accurately size, weight, position, and gender of a person by listening to movement.

Using this information, Ms. Fackler creates superb suspense in My Eyes Have a Cold Nose. This suspense is unlike any found in mysteries featuring sighted detective heroes. To explain just why would spoil the fun of My Eyes Have a Cold Nose. Suffice to say that Ms. Fackler uses Gigi’s abilities to create moments that tie a reader’s insides into knots, particularly when an intruder creeps into her house assuming she will not know anyone is there; or when Teenie bolts from Gigi’s, stranding her in the middle of a hostile crowd.

Between the heart pounding moments, Ms. Fackler describes the relationship between a blind person and a seeing, eye dog as a blind person would experience it. Teenie curls her body around Gigi to warn her of steps or rough sidewalks. Gigi can feel changes in the dog’s mood and focus by touching her harness.

Without one visual image, Ms. Fackler conveys a sense of the unnamed town where Gigi lives simply by describing what she feels as she walks the streets, hears traffic, and listens to the comings and goings of others.

As My Eyes Have a Cold Nose’s plot develops, the author sprinkles in Ms. Garrett’s reflections on life with her father: things he used to do, favorite sayings, tidbits he shared about law enforcement, and paternal advice. All the memories come from documented sources concerning Ms. Garrett and her family.

No piece of information is wasted or gratuitous. Throughout My Eyes Have a Cold Nose, fact drives plot and develops character to create fine fiction, a deep understanding of how blind people function, and a strong sense of New Mexico as a particular place in a particular time.

Reviewer Connie Gotsch is the author of A Mouth Full of Shell and Snap Me a Future. Her quote if featured featured in "The Complete Writer's Journal"
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