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PaulineMRoss

Pauline's Fantasy Reviews

Reviews of fantasy books, plus some mystery, sci-fi and literary works, and my random thoughts on book-related matters.

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Dragon Queen (The Memory of Flames, #5)
Stephen Deas
The Splintered Eye (The War of Memory Cycle #2)
H. Anthe Davis, Erica Dakin

A Death In Beverly Hills

A Death In Beverly Hills - David Grace Another free ebook download, but this one is rather good. Yes, it's got it's fair share of typos, but mostly it's a missing or extra word here and there rather than spelling errors or grammatical howlers, so it didn't impinge on my enjoyment too much. In fact, the few spelling mistakes were actually quite funny. The author obviously has trouble with double consonants, so there were a lot of scared tables and shinny clothes and so forth, which was quite entertaining. Well, it amused me.

The plot revolves around an ex-cop called in to reinvestigate the murder of a celebrity's wife, but since the ex-cop's wife was also murdered, there are echoes of the previous case. The style is confusing at first - there are here-and-now scenes, scenes recalled from the present murder's investigation and flashbacks to the ex-cop's past, all jumbled up without much explanation, but you get used to it after a while. It would have helped, though, to have some more memorable names - Steve, Tom, Greg, Simon... they're just too easy to mix up. Even the author gets them mixed up occasionally. The author has a habit, too, of using both first name and surname interchangeably: "Steve said... Janson nodded..." sometimes in the same paragraph, but you get used to that, too, in time.

The first half of the book is quite slow. The ex-cop reads the investigation files and sometimes visits the key people in the case, and it may seem as if nothing much is happening here, but I really liked the subtle way characters are built up in layers, and events are revealed piece by piece. If you pay attention, too, there are all sorts of clues as to what really happened - or are they just red herrings? I found myself devising possible scenarios in my head - always a good sign in this kind of book.

The characters had more depth than is usual for a murder mystery. The cops all tended to come from the same cookie cutter - brusque, wise-cracking, macho types, but the women were more varied and less predictable, and the accused was a wonderful mixture of bravado and sheer stupidity. The ex-cop's history was interesting, and there's a thought-provoking theme on the question of justice - not just the commonplace one of ensuring that the innocent are not unfairly convicted, but the more awkward one of when (or whether) it's acceptable to take the law into your own hands, and how a civilised society deals with that.

It surprised me that this book has received quite a few critical reviews in some places. It's not perfect, it needs some solid editing and it's not great literature, but then it doesn't pretend to be. It did exactly what I expected of it - created a satisfyingly tangled plot and characters who behave believably, without depending on car chases or gun fights or unlikely coincidences. In the end, the identity of the killer was very logical without being blindingly obvious, and didn't come out of left field in the final chapter. Too many authors use sleight of hand to conceal vital clues, allowing them to reveal the killer with a triumphant flourish at the end. My only complaint is that I found the courtroom scenes an unnecessarily drawn-out extension to the plot, and I suspect the author was overly focussed on the visual dramatics of a possible film version. It made the ending a little simpler than it could have been. But it was still good exciting stuff, a thoroughly enjoyable read. Four stars.