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Pauline's Fantasy Reviews

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

Currently reading

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

Back on Murder (A Roland March Mystery)

Back on Murder - J. Mark Bertrand This is one that I picked up for free at some point, experimentally, and I really enjoyed it. It's not at all an original premise - washed up cop trying to find his way again, some traumatic history, rocky relationship with his wife, a drugs-style shooting, a missing girl, leaks to the press, blah blah, and many of the twists and turns were quite predictable, but it really didn't matter. I found myself drawn into it almost at once, and was soon tearing through it in every spare moment.

The key factor for me was that all the characters felt like real people. The cop himself, Roland March, his wife Charlotte, the other cops, the various people drawn into the investigation... all of them felt like the sort of folks you could meet any day of the week, with all their little foibles, their histories together, the way they behaved. I read so many books where the characters are simply one-dimensional that it's a real joy to find one where they're fully rounded, and make stupid mistakes from time to time, or even get distracted by an attractive colleague.

This book has been categorised as 'Christian' by a number of readers, but if that is normally a turn-off for you, don't be deterred. Several of the characters are openly Christian, and there's a connection to a local church, but there's absolutely no preaching. The main effect on the plot is no swearing, no obvious sex outside marriage, and no real vices amongst the main characters, but that doesn't make it dull or heavily religious at all. Actually, it makes a refreshing change from the usual book of this type.

Some negatives: there were moments when the plot required characters to do fairly stupid things, or fail to make the obvious connections, just to trigger a dramatic moment or a big reveal. There were a lot of minor characters to keep track of, especially when they would disappear for several chapters and then pop up again out of nowhere. Thank goodness for the Kindle search function. And the hero's wife has to be fairly unpleasant for a while in order to ramp up the drama: at one point she starts in on him as soon as he steps through the door, then accuses *him* of always arguing, and when he eventually does what she's been nagging him to do, she rewards him with sex, which felt a little odd to me.

One aspect I felt uncomfortable with was the link to 9-11. Sometimes it seems as if you can't open a book without one or other character being connected to the tragedy, and in this case it seemed like a bit of an unnecessary stretch, a cheap appeal to emotion which could have been dealt with more creatively. It's a small point, however. On the plus side, I enjoyed the setting of Houston. I lived there for a while way back when, and it was strange to find what were respectable neighbourhoods in thoe days characterised as drug infested now. But the descriptions of the area seemed spot-on to me, as far as I could tell.

The story built nicely to the climax which was suitably dramatic, tied things up neatly and yet left the odd loose end to be picked up in a future book, perhaps. An entertaining, readable story. Four stars.