27 May 2014

Library Limelights 57

Karen Slaughter. Unseen. New York: Dell Books, 2013.
A favourite, talented author ― alas, relegated to being the default travel book. It means your faithful reader was not paying rapt attention to the 25 pages I managed in 24 days, having much more wondrous sights to see. Then prolonged jet lag interfered somewhat with the remainder. My excuses having been made, Slaughter still climbs the ladder as a proficient exponent of crime policing in the southern U.S. Her proponents, Dr. Sara Linton, GBI agent Will Trent, and detective Lena Adams, will be familiar to readers of prior books in the series.

Lena once again finds herself in an ugly, mortal situation that causes wide ripples and resentment. I didn't especially like the chapter back-and-forth timing of events, but it's trendy these days. Will is always likeable and this time he and Sara seem to get honest with each other. That's during and despite the count of dead bodies. Slaughter knows how to create challenging puzzles, and defines her characters well. Her details of hospital and police work are impeccable. A bonus is an added short story about Will in a convoluted robbery/murder situation.

Sara and Lena:
Even before Jeffrey died, Sara had never liked Lena Adams. Arrogant. Sloppy. Jeffrey constantly complained about Lena's headstrong ways, but Sara knew how her husband's mind worked. There was no sexual attraction between them―sometimes Sarah wished it had been that simple. Lena was simply a challenge that Jeffrey could not walk away from. She was a destructive little sister to his all-forgiving big brother. Jeffrey loved her toughness. He loved her fight. He loved that no matter how hard Lena was hit, she always got back up after being knocked down. (105)

Sara and Lena, encore:
Again, Sara struggled against the instinct to offer comfort, to spin the situation in a more positive light. In the end, she couldn't summon the energy. Somewhere in the pit of her chest, there was the capacity to feel compassion for this woman. Sara felt it stir occasionally, like a car engine trying to start on a cold day. It would rev and rev, but eventually, it always sputtered out and died. (257)

Best one-liner: "You know, my daddy told me a long time ago that wanting revenge is like sipping poison and waiting for the other person to die." (202-3)

Ian Rankin. Saints of the Shadow Bible. UK: Orion Books, 2013.
What could be more delicious than a long awaited Edinburgh-centric bestseller? Rankin is at his topnotch best here with John Rebus back on the regular police force. The pithy dialogue moves the action among three separate cases set against the background of Scotland's upcoming Referendum: an unexplained car crash; the murder of a witness for a revived cold case; and a politician's accidental (or was it?) death. Rebus manages to involve himself in all three, justifying his reputation for pissing off superior officers in all corners of the city.

One investigation seeks to peel back grimy layers of the thirty-year-old Summerhall detective team where Rebus first worked. The book title reflects their comradeship. Was Rebus a saint or a sinner at the time? And what is he now? "Whose side are you on, John?" seems to be a running theme as his old colleagues are questioned. What's perhaps most surprising is his growing involvement with Malcolm Fox, a prior nemesis from the Complaints. All part and parcel of a compelling cast of characters (including the ever-sharp Siobhan Clarke). Little did I know the cops refer to West Lothian (an ancestral district of mine) as "the Badlands," i.e. where the bad guys notoriously hang out. Rankin has another winner in a very well-paced mystery with all ingredients perfectly blended.

Rebus is in the pub:
"You never touch the booze?" he asked. Fox shook his head. "Because you can't?"
Fox nodded, then looked at him. "I can't, and you shouldn't."
Rebus toasted the sentiment and took another mouthful.
"Was it the drinking that made your wife leave you?" he enquired.
"I could ask the selfsame question," Fox shot back.
"And I'd have to tell you that it was." Rebus thought for a moment. "Or maybe that was just part of it. Doing what we do ... I couldn't let off steam at home — quite the opposite. So it got bottled up. And the only people I could talk to were other cops. That was the start of the distancing ..." He exhaled, then shrugged.
"You could have knocked the booze on the head," Fox told him.
"Like you did, you mean? And that's why you're still happily married with a vibrant social life?"
Fox looked as if he might take offence, but then his shoulders loosened. "Touché," he said. (73)

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