Forged By Desire

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Garrett Reed, Acting Master of the Nighthawks, has a secret, a dangerous and lethal secret. Only weeks ago, an Echelon lord, in a chemically induced blood frenzy, shattered Garrett’s chest and literally dragged his heart halfway out before he was subdued. In order to heal such an extensive injury, the virus that makes him the blue-blooded vampire-like creature that he is had to go into overdrive.

Now, Garrett’s craving virus percentage has nearly doubled and is still rising in small increments daily. At this current rate, in just mere weeks he will be unable to control his need for blood and will become a danger to anyone around him. And because he is leader of the Nighthawks, he will not simply be incarcerated and forced to die of starvation, he will be summarily beheaded.

However, that’s not the only secret he has to keep. He has been partners in the Nighthawks with Perry Lowell for nine years. And during a recent sting operation, Garrett discovered that Perry is a woman. Now, he’s always known that Perry is female, the only one in the Nighthawks, in fact, and one of the few female blue-bloods in existence. But she has always worn the men’s leather uniform and armor, has a man’s haircut, and fights with all the deadliness and strength of a male blue-blood. She is his best tracker and his best friend.

However, when she dons a formal flowing gown for the sting operation and he observes her ability to function socially and flirtatiously in Echelon society, Garrett sees the “woman.” And he is lost, wanting more than friendship but afraid his virus levels will cause him to kill her. So he pushes her away onto a new partner, determined to keep all his secrets and keep her safe.

Well, Perry Lowell has some secrets, too. Nine years of them, in fact. The first is that she has loved Garrett all of those nine years. Knowing, however, that he only saw her as a partner and friend, she has kept her feelings hidden. Then, after he acknowledges her desirability during the sting operation, but summarily shoves her away before she can reciprocate, Perry decides that her feelings will just have to stay a secret after all.

If unrequited love were Perry’s only secret, life would be a cinch for her. Nine years ago, she faked her death to escape the sadistic attentions of the Duke of Moncrieff, with whom she had been forced by her father to make a blood and flesh rights thrall contract. Perry had discovered that Moncrieff sponsored a psychopathic doctor in his experiments to develop mechanical body parts. When Perry protested the experiments on live and unwilling subjects, she became one of the “experiments.”

Forcibly infected with the craving virus, Perry was repeatedly sliced and diced so that the doctor could document the healing effect of the virus. But the doctor didn’t count on the increased strength caused by the virus, a defective restraint buckle or Perry’s skills with a blade, and Perry escaped, thinking that she had killed the doctor. Moncrieff was suspected of murder when she disappeared and was sentenced to exile in Scotland for 10 years.

Now, Moncrieff is back, not only pardoned by the Prince Consort but appointed to the ruling Council. And Perry, while investigating the deaths of two Echelon debutantes, falls through a trap door in a factory floor, horrified to find herself in an exact duplicate of the laboratory where Moncrieff’s doctor had tortured her so long ago.

Bec McMaster writes a compelling and pulse-pounding tale about the effects that keeping secrets have, not only on the person who has the secrets but on the people from whom those secrets are kept. She delves intimately into the motivations, both selfless and self-serving, for keeping those secrets, even in the face of emotional or physical death.

The author is masterful in her timing and in the phrasing of each secret’s reveal. The frustration and the tension she builds as you witness the effects of the lies of omission, as you wait for each secret to be divulged and acted upon, makes this a page-turner.

While the story may be set in an alternate history, or steampunk, version of 1800’s England, the bulk of the story is pointed more toward the emotional realm than the science fiction one. The scientific and medical technology in use is a parallel, though crude, version of today’s devices, from tape recorders and ear bud communicators to artificial hearts and blood dialysis. Thus, little suspension of disbelief is required, beyond a belief in the supernatural itself, to feel at home with the storyline.

This book is the 4th full-length novel in McMaster’s London Steampunk series, and it is definitely not a standalone book. In fact, this story arc is highly dependent upon the reader’s memory of the events that transpired in the 3rd novel, “My Lady Quicksilver.” Without that background, you will not sufficiently understand the Nighthawks or the dynamics between Garrett and Lynch, Garrett’s former and long-time commander, that fuel a lot of this story. And without that point of reference, it may be lost on you why certain characters believe it absolutely necessary to sacrifice blood, breath and soul in order to continue another’s survival.

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For The Sake Of Elena

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Elena Weaver is dead, waylaid while on her pre-dawn run, smashed in the face with the ubiquitous blunt object, strangled with the tie from her hood and buried in a leaf pile by the river. Within three days of her murder and because of it, eight more people will be dead, in body or in soul. But four others will be saved, particularly in soul, including our Lynley, Havers and Lady Helen.

Elena was 20 years old at the time of her death. A second-year student, she was studying English at Cambridge University where her father is an eminent history professor on the very short list for a distinguished, coveted and lifetime Chair in his department. And it is only because of her father’s stature at Cambridge that Elena was still a student there.

Not only had her course work been sub-standard, her personal behavior had been more than questionable. So rather than dismiss her, in deference to her father, the university ordered an “action plan” implemented with multiple tutors and mandatory participation in several student unions. Her grades improved but her acting-out behavior simply went underground and essentially became the beginning of her end.

As with most catastrophes, the debacle leading up to and following Elena’s murder did not just happen overnight. It actually began twenty years earlier when Elena was born deaf to a set of parents who were not prepared to raise a deaf child. And they didn’t want a deaf child. They wanted a normal child, so they refused to allow her to learn sign language, forcing her to read lips and speak.

Fast forward five years to when the parents, in a loveless marriage from the first days, divorce, the father leaving in the middle of the night without so much as a hug for Elena, let alone a parting word. Fast forward another five years to the remarriage of the father and his attempt to reconcile with the child, not understanding the degree and depth to which his ex-wife has fueled Elena’s sense of abandonment and poisoned the child with her own hate.

Now, fast forward once again to the present, where Elena has been essentially forced by finances to attend her father’s school. Badgered to spend weekends at her father’s up-scale home, pressured into attending academic functions with her father, coerced into having virtually 24-hour supervision by tutors, she is even forced to do her daily running with her stepmother. And it is all for her safety and all in the name of love, so sayeth her father.

Elena was tired of being forced to be someone that she did not want to be and, in reality, truly could never be. She was deaf and no amount of lip reading or speech therapy or wanting her to be “normal” could or would ever change that fact. Childhood abandonment turned into adolescent hate, which turned into a young adult’s unwavering need to exact revenge against the father who had never once asked her what she wanted or what she needed.

So, honed into a sociopath from birth, Elena set in motion a long-term plan for revenge. She just didn’t expect that her plot would culminate in her death, rather than in her satisfaction. Of course, the immaturity and inexperience of youth and its attendant self-absorption rarely allows for the idea that someone else may be driven to play the same game, let alone be better at it.

While a murder has occurred and a murderer must be found, this is not totally a murder mystery. This is a psychological thriller based on the concepts of love, need and want. This is a story that pits selfishness against selflessness and against partnership.

This is a story about what a person wants and the actions he or she will take, the words he or she will say, to get what is wanted. It is a story about having no equal regard – consciously or unconsciously – for what another person wants or needs. It is a story of soul-level destruction and redemption. And this is a story where love, hate and revenge are only the outward ramifications of the fundamental need to take care of me, mine, myself and I.

Elizabeth George has produced an excellent literary mystery in this fifth entry to her Inspector Lynley series. It is a long book, 442 pages in the mass-market paperback version. And those pages are filled with a small typeface and lines spaced tightly together. George uses college-level vocabulary and a unique sentence structure so the read is made longer by the need to sometimes consult a dictionary or to re-read for clarity.

But, in the end, the unusual construct makes the storyline that much more intense. While the investigation by Lynley and Havers oft times seems slow and subdued and even appears to take second place to the various psychological subplots, this reader did not want to put the book down until the identify of the murderer was revealed. I simply could not let go until I knew exactly who had opened such an emotionally nasty and particularly heinous Pandora’s Box.

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Well-Schooled In Murder

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Elizabeth George may write this book, but the first five sentences of J. D. Robb’s “Reunion in Death” describe the alpha and the omega of this work more succinctly than anything I can manufacture:

Murder was work. Death was a serious chore for the killer, the victim, for the survivors. And for those who stood for the dead. Some went about the job devotedly, others carelessly. And for some, murder was a labor of love.”

And as you read this book, it all comes down to how one defines murder and how one defines love.

This third novel in the Inspector Lynley series opens two months after the disastrous events at the conclusion of the previous novel. Thomas Lynley is working every case available to him at Scotland Yard, trying to survive Lady Helen’s self-imposed exile in Greece. As the author writes on page 8: “For the past two months Lynley had been burning the candle not only at both ends but right through the middle.”

On one Sunday evening, Barbara Havers has just about convinced Lynley to leave the Yard when they are visited by John Corntel, one of Lynley’s old classmates from Eton. Corntel is there to ask for Lynley’s help in the case of a child just discovered missing from the Bredgar Chambers school where Corntel is a faculty member and housemaster. Even though missing persons’ cases are out of his jurisdiction and the Yard’s help has not been officially requested, Lynley agrees to check it out, just as a favor to “the old school tie.”

Unknown to Lynley, Havers and Corntel, the missing child has just been found – naked, tortured and very dead. And, it seems, Lynley’s best friend’s wife, Deborah St. James, has found the body while on a photographic shoot in a famous church’s graveyard. And thus begins a most convoluted and emotionally draining murder mystery, because Matthew Whateley is not the first person to die at this school nor is he the last. Matthew Whateley is simply the only person who is murdered.

There are actually five sub-plots weaving throughout and sharing the billing with the murder investigation. First, there is Lynley’s tenuous relationship with Lady Helen. Secondly are Havers’ problems with her ailing father and mentally ill mother. Third is Deborah St. James’ estrangement from Simon following her fourth miscarriage. Fourth is the devastation and disintegration of the lives of Matthew Whateley’s parents. And lastly is Lynley’s struggle with his personal ethics versus his professional responsibilities.

Before the identity of the murderer is revealed, Elizabeth George takes us on a pointed exploration into both the written and unwritten codes of behavior that exist in many boarding schools. She tracks the effects of these codes on not only the current students and staff but on the adults who have graduated from these types of schools, particularly Lynley and Corntel. We get a hard look into bullying in a situation where a parent is not readily available, and into racial bias and class bias by both students and staff. We get just as hard a look into pedophilia, pregnancy, abortion and unrequited love.

But regardless of which plot line the author is exploring, the murder itself or the subplots, we are taken down the pathways of guilt, earned or unearned, as well as remorse, genuine or totally lacking. These elements of guilt, remorse and honor take Lynley and the reader through multiple dead ends, blind alleys and twists. Before the final pages, these elements are part and parcel of the destruction of at least a dozen people, not counting the murderer and the murdered. But these same elements become the beginning threads of redemption for at least three others.

This book covers only four days in the lives of many people. It begins with death and it ends with death. There are no smiles in this book; there is no laughter. There is no happy ending even though the murderer is identified. But there is hope. In the last pages, there is hope.

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The Anodyne Necklace

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This story is more driven by character than by plot. Make no mistake – there is a plot, a very complicated one involving a theft, a mugging, a series of poison-pen letters, an accidental death and a deliberate death. All of these events take place within one year’s time, are seemingly unrelated, but are all perpetrated upon or by residents of a small village close to London called Littlebourne.

It is the deliberate death, evidenced only by a dog chewing on a severed finger bone that gives Chief Superintendent Racer the gleeful opportunity to cancel Superintendent Richard Jury’s weekend plans with Melrose Plant at Ardry End. And that gives Plant the opportunity to ditch Aunt Agatha and get involved in a murder investigation. It will only take Jury, Wiggins and Plant three days to solve the murder. But in those three days, they – and the reader – will encounter some of the oddest and saddest specimens of the human race possible.

One of these characters is Emily Louise Perk, a ten-year-old girl with an affinity for horses, a need to ply crayons to coloring books, the ability to sell sand in a desert, and an intelligence for self-survival that is off the charts. Whether Martha Grimes intended it or not, Emily Louise steals the story away from Jury and Plant. She turns out to be integral to the solution of the murder; but her very existence and manner also brings out aspects of both Jury’s and Plant’s characters heretofore unseen.

Emily Louise may be central but she is just one of a large complement of characters, in both Littlebourne and London, who play a role in this complicated mystery. At first, I was aggravated that there were so many to keep straight. However, my aggravation dropped away when I remembered that, in real life, the police have to sort them all out also. So I relaxed and let Jury do all the heavy lifting.

In the end, I still picked the wrong person as the murderer. But, then, Jury had accused the wrong person late in the story also. And when the villain’s identity was finally revealed, I realized that Grimes had already told us, in a backhanded way, near the beginning of the novel, exactly whom the murderer would turn out to be. Missing that really made me hang my amateur sleuth’s head in shame and disgust.

Even though the author managed to keep her secrets to the end, she did so in a magnificent and entertaining way. The internal monologues of Jury and Plant are consistently written with tongue-in-cheek humor, satire, sarcasm, eye-rolling snark, and a 180-degree separation in what is thought versus what is said. This approach for Jury is quite different from the style in the first two books of the series. But this technique in no way lessened the psychological import of the scenes involved.

Grimes also uses, in this novel, what would be termed in visual media as “sight gags.” I do not know the appropriate term for printed media, but the equivalent in this novel is the repeated use of the “baby in a carriage” image. It turns out to be quite important to our perception of Jury.

And, in the vein of perceiving character traits, Grimes gives us new insight into Wiggins. He actually appears far less in this work than in the previous novels, but when he does speak, we find that there is a totally new layer to him beneath the hypochondria and the compulsive attention to detail. Our first clue is his reference to a famous quote from “The Wizard of Oz” that follows a jaw-sucking, skin-crawling scene in a London slum. And then Grimes expands Wiggins from there, just a bit, but a very noticeable bit.

In the end, we have a third novel in a series that is neither formulaic nor does it follow any pattern from the previous entries. The crimes are complex, woven through a loom of time and lies. So the story is convoluted to match the crimes. We don’t get all the answers by the last page either, but that is neither poor workmanship nor oversight on the part of the author. It is simply that dead people can tell no tales.

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Payment In Blood

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Thomas Lynley, at 34 years of age, is a detective inspector with the CID at New Scotland Yard. He is very good at his job and well respected amongst his peers. And, in this book, that is the start of his troubles. For Thomas Lynley is a peer. He is Lord Asherton, the eighth Earl of Asherton, to be exact. And his presence is commanded by the upper echelon of the Yard when Stuart Rintoul, Lord Stinhurst, sixteenth or seventeenth Earl of Stinhurst, finds himself at the scene of a murder.

Lord Stinhurst is a prominent London producer and has contracted with Joy Sinclair, a renowned true crime writer, to write an original play for his troupe, a group that has been working together for almost 20 years. Script approved, Stinhurst has Sinclair, his main troupe and a media writer assemble at his widowed sister’s estate in Scotland.

Accompanying the leading lady is her husband/agent. And Stinhurst has brought his wife and spinster daughter. The director has also brought along a guest, the daughter of yet another earl. To complicate matters, the supporting actress is divorced from the lead actor. And she is also the sister of Joy Sinclair. But the sister and Sinclair are estranged, since Sinclair had an affair with the sister’s husband, that leading actor, precipitating their divorce. On top of all this, Sinclair was the fiancée of Stinhurst’s son prior to his death. And let’s not forget the widowed sister, the maid and the handyman. Needless to say, tensions are high in this soap opera.

Then Joy Sinclair announces that she has made a few revisions to the script. When the group begins the read-through, they discover very quickly that the “revisions” constitute a full-plot rewrite. Sinclair, with her true crime bent, has altered the original script to expose some very nasty skeletons in the Stinhurst family closet. The read-through devolves into a brawl, after which all parties retreat to parts unknown within the mansion. The next morning Joy Sinclair is found dead, a dirk driven through her neck, skewered to the mattress.

Enter Thomas Lynley, ordered to investigate in a jurisdiction in which he has minimal authority and in a jurisdiction that has not officially requested Yard assistance. While this situation confuses Lynley, nothing prepares him for what happens next. Upon arriving at the estate, he finds out that Lady Helen Clyde, one of his closest friends and the woman he has come to love, has spent the night in the room next door to that of the murdered woman, having begged off spending the weekend with him. He then finds out that she is actually spending the weekend with the director of the play, Rhys Davies-Jones.

Lynley goes off the rails, betrayed in more ways than one. For the first time in his career, he is determined to force the evidence to fit his needs instead of letting the evidence lead what way it will. And his need is to make that director, that man who slept with Helen, that man whose fingerprints are on one of the keys to Joy Sinclair’s room, the murderer of Joy Sinclair.

Elizabeth George has written a mystery that has an entire cast of suspects hating not only the victim but each other. As the sub-plots twist and twine, we are hard pressed to decide just who murdered the woman. But one thing we do know, regardless of the evidence discovered or the theories advanced, is that the director, Rhys Davies-Jones, is not the murderer. He cannot be or the author will have destroyed our main protagonist morally, psychologically and professionally. Lynley simply cannot be allowed to win this fight, not this way. And Barbara Havers, his sergeant, with Simon St. James, is determined to save him from himself, even if they have to lie to him to do it.

First published in 1989, with a storyline that occurs in 1988, this book, at the time of this review, exposes us to a 25-year cultural difference. Computers exist in government agencies but only word processors are in private hands. There is no Internet to speed up research nor are there cell phones to ease communication difficulties.

And the legal procedures are vastly different than what we experience today. In our current society, no question is too invasive; no privacy is afforded in a murder investigation. But that’s now, not 1989 when this story was written. So when you read Lady Helen’s reactions to Lynley’s very pointed questions at the beginning of the novel, she is not being a drama queen. She is reacting within the cultural norm of her day when women, particularly titled women, were rarely asked about the details of their sex lives in front of witnesses.

While the murder mystery itself is both convoluted and masterfully crafted, it is primarily a vehicle for the character growth of Lynley, Havers and Lady Helen. As Lynley and Lady Helen spiral downward into self-recrimination and depression, Havers finds her way upward, past her prejudices and the chip on her shoulder. She becomes the glue and the driving force that saves Lynley from being crushed by the politics of the Yard. And just as Lynley and Lady Helen must choose to face some harsh realities before they can face each other, Havers must choose between her career and her mentor.

This paperback edition is 413 pages of small print and tightly spaced lines. That makes it a long read. However, the intellectual and emotional workouts that are fashioned on those pages make it worth the time.

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Ethan Justice: Incendiary

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The storyline for this novel begins a little over one week following the conclusion of the second novel in the Ethan Justice series, Relentless. This story also begins only a little over a month since we first met Ethan Justice in the first book, Origins

Obviously and thankfully, Simon Jenner does not intend to let any grass grow under the proverbial feet of his main characters, Ethan Justice and Savannah Jones. In the first book they met and became a team, personally and professionally. In the second book, Ethan’s character was explored in greater detail and their teamwork with Herb Johnson and Earthguard was advanced. In this third novel, circumstances require that Ethan and Savannah work certain scenarios separately, rather than as a team, with Herb Johnson guiding them more by telephone than in person.

Our story opens with a prologue, set in Madrid, where Nick Nelson, a British mobster currently working out of Spain, meets with Faruq Saeed, an Islamic fundamentalist and highly successful international terrorist. By the time the prologue is finished, we know that there will be a bombing the next day in Malaga and that Faruq Saeed is a veritable angel compared to Nelson. 

And, by the end of the book, we will have been exposed to the inner thoughts of Nelson at great depth. There will be no doubt in the reader’s mind that Simon Jenner knows how to write a 3-dimensional psychopath, a character that is insane, cruel and homicidal in one breath but compelling and sympathetic in the next. And Jenner maintains a consistent characterization of Nelson throughout the book – no surprises, no miracles, no suspension of disbelief required.

This depth of characterization is not limited to Nelson, however. We spend a great deal of time in Savannah’s head this time around. Since the first novel, we have known that she has had several serious setbacks in her short life, including the death of her mother. Throughout this novel, Jenner puts Savannah into situations that involve fists, knives, guns and rape. These situations are graphically described, tense, visually realistic and not for the feint of heart. And, situation by situation, Savannah is forced to deal with her victim complex and her flight responses in order to have the slightest chance of survival. Again, Jenner maintains a consistent characterization – no previously unknown abilities surface, no deus ex machina materializes.

From the first page, the plotline is executed logically and realistically. Right after being introduced to Nelson, we find our protagonists’ flight home from a Caribbean vacation diverted to that same town of Malaga where the bomb is supposed to explode. This is not “coincidence;” they are diverted because of an Earthguard training exercise, not because anyone in law enforcement knows about the INCENDIARY plans. Then we learn that Ethan’s sister, Rachel, is also in Malaga and is the girlfriend of Nelson’s stepson, Carl. Now, this feels “coincidental,” both the relationship and the venue. However, Jenner defends it quite logically: their relationship is long term; Carl owns a business there; he despises his stepfather and he is not part of Nelson’s organization. 

From this point, the novel explodes, moving systematically back and forth between Ethan, Savannah and Nelson – what each is doing, thinking and planning in the same exact time frame. The plans made by both Nelson and Justice/Jones/Johnson come together, fall apart, shift to a new reality and move forward again with believability. The fight scenes and physical confrontations are easily visualized and capable of being followed logically with the mental eye. The tension mounts page by page until you just want to skim the scenes and get to the heart of the matter. But you don’t, because you know Jenner buries plot devices and clues to further developments in what seems like the most innocuous of paragraphs. 

Over the four days that the novel encompasses, Jenner takes us from the first INCENDIARY device in the prologue to the final INCENDIARY device that, on the last page of the book, blows the series storyline up in our faces. No, he does not split up our protagonists nor does he end the book on a cliffhanger, but he does provide us with one hellacious set-up for the next novel. I do so look forward to that one.

I received a free electronic ARC copy of this novel from the author. While there were typos in that e-copy, they were mostly instances of missing punctuation and did not distract from the story. And since it was an ARC, those typos may well have been corrected in the final version. The fact that my copy was free did not in any way affect my opinion of the book. 

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The Old Fox Deceiv’d

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This British police procedural, the second in Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury series, is not only written in the early 1980’s, it takes place in that time frame also. Therefore, no cell phones, no computers, no Internet, and no DNA testing exist to speed things up or save the day. Our protagonist and his compatriots must solve the murder the old-fashioned way with paper and pencil, personal interviews, attentive visual observation, open-mindedness, logic and cunning.

The novel begins in a rather unique way. In the first 15 pages are 5 separate scenes. The first scene details the events a few minutes prior to the murder and the murder itself from the victim’s point of view. The second and third scenes detail the exact same time frame from the viewpoints of two other residents of the village as their time lines momentarily intersect with the victim. The fourth scene is the finding of the body and a nasty, bloody find it is. The fifth scene details the arrival of the local detective inspector who will have to, unwillingly, cede control of the investigation to Scotland Yard and Detective Chief Inspector (soon to be Superintendent) Richard Jury.

While the opening scenes may be quite dramatic, the remainder of the book is quite deliberate and convoluted. It is a cerebral walk through innuendoes, lies, secrets and past lives. Late in the book, finally picking up on one discrepancy in a minor character’s story, I got my first feel toward the murderer’s identity. And while I did get that correct, I missed the motivation completely.

This novel is also a walk through a northern seacoast village whose culture and language are a far cry from those of London, not only for the reader but for Jury himself. Both the dialect and the colloquialisms of the village culture gave me a rough time throughout the book. I finally gave up on the dictionary and simply read for general effect in those areas. While the dialect was somewhat capable of being decoded, the many references tied specifically to the sport of fox hunting and the thatching of roofs were practically impenetrable. It’s almost as if the author was being deliberately heavy handed, trying to show off to the reader and/or prove the depth of her research.

Locale aside, Grimes writes novels that are character-driven. Jury is not the stereotypical cop who bullies his witnesses and suspects; he is the cop who uses patience and research to quietly trip them up. He treats his coworkers with respect and knows how to shut up and turn the other cheek when respect is not an option. He is a man who surreptitiously helps those abused by power or neglect. And he is a man who hovers just on the edge of clinical depression. Wiggins, while a hypochondriac, has a penchant for detail and organization and is thus a useful sergeant for Jury. And Plant, the earl who renounced his title and who wants to be a detective, seems destined to become Jury’s best friend.

Grimes also writes novels that are character-based, rather than situational. The major characters of Jury, Plant and Wiggins have traveled from the first novel to this one. They are written in three-dimension, clearly drawn physically and intellectually, with more and more hints to their emotional makeup provided. Their experiences in the past novel significantly flavor their responses and interpretations in this tale, and they are appearing to become something of a team.

What Grimes does not write is action-adventure. However, this novel is not a cozy or a beach read either. The murder is violent and intricately motivated even if it is solved by brains rather than brawn. And Grimes makes the murder part of this novel a standalone situation – begun, processed and solved in one book with no major plot threads hanging on to fuel a future plot line.

However, even when cliffhangers are not involved, novels in a series are always best read in order. This series is no exception since previous situations are referenced but not explained. And, oh, by the way, when you have finished the last page of the book, go back and read those first 5 scenes again. 

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