Sunday, October 14, 2007

A "Dirty Martini" That Will Satisfy Your Thirst

I discovered J.A. Konrath's blog after listening to a podcast interview with Chicago book critic Dana Kaye. She mentioned his blog, so I checked it out. If you're a fellow writer, you'll enjoy his advise about the writing life, and most of it's pretty useful.

But what about his books? I knew he could blog, but could he write a good mystery? I had to find out. The answer is, Yes.

His latest, Dirty Martini, is the fourth novel in a series featuring Homicide Detective Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels working in the city of Chicago. And it's a juiced-up thriller. A murderer is poisoning the food in Chicago's grocery stores and restaraunts. Jack is assigned the case by a reluctant police superintendent, not because she's the best qualified cop, but because she has a good reputation with the public.

If you've ever worked in a large, faceless bureaucracy, this actually makes perfect sense. But despite her own doubts, Lt. Daniels makes the most of it. She works the clues and pursues the killer in the face of numerous distractions, including an injured boyfriend, a reluctant partner, and a georgeous FBI agent that throws himself at her.

Then there's the killer. Nicknamed the Chemist, he is portrayed with cruel effectiveness. By allowing the reader to follow him in action as he poisons several spots around the city, our shock is multiplied by witnessing his callous disregard for human life. This is one sick puppy. And he wants a lot of money to stop the poisonings. But we don't discover his true motive until the end of the book.

Konrath keeps the action going with a diverse cast of characters that capture our attention and entertain us. I found myself laughing more than once, despite the growing body count, as the author uses a healthy dose of humor to lighten the subject matter. One fine example is Daniel's ex-partner, Harry McGlade, who comes to the rescue in several scenes. He's juvenile, obnoxious, and so funny he nearly stole the show from the main character. I wouldn't mind seeing him in a stand-alone mystery.

And for those of you who indulge in alcohol, the book contains a pretty good recipie for a Dirty Martini. I'd give it to you, but since I strongly recommend the book, why would you want me to spoil the surprise?

by Patrick Balester

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