I read a number of Joanne Kilbourn mysteries by Canada’s own Gail Bowen a few years ago, and I remember really enjoying them. Not really standard mysteries because the “sleuth” is a rather unintentional one – Joanne Kilbourn is a political science professor at the university in Regina. But then again, not really “cozies” because the murders tend to be of the gruesome and violent sort. The most likely analog I can think of would be Kay Scarpetta, minus all the medical examiner ickiness!
So I was very excited to see The Nesting Dolls show up in the catalogue – the 12th Joanne Kilbourn mystery, thus named even though Joanne Kilbourn is now Joanne Shreve, having married defense attorney Zack Shreve. And it is her husband and his relationships that are the source of this particular mystery.
Just before a winter storm knocks out Regina’s power, a young woman bearing a striking resemblance to Zack’s law partner Delia Wainberg hands an infant seat (infant included) to Delia’s teenage daughter in a high school gymnasium and escapes into the storm. Shortly thereafter, this same mysterious stranger is found frozen in her car – strangled and raped.
What follows is a crash course through fresh pain and long-buried secrets. Joanne Shreve née Kilbourn solves mysteries almost by osmosis. Part of the appeal in Bowen’s books is that the detecting is tangential to the story, which is always a very human tale of people doing their best to muddle through life. Because Joanne is neither a lawyer nor a detective, there is no emphasis on procedure or legal trappings. Disclosure is achieved through interaction and conversation; discovery is based solely on Joanne’s ability to get to know the people around her. This mystery was quite a departure from most of what I have been reading recently, and a refreshing change of pace. I also really enjoyed that it is set at Christmas-time – the intensification of emotion and experience wrought by the holidays is a perfect period in which to lay bare the mysteries of the human heart!
Series update: I put my son on the school bus on Friday, then promptly climbed back into bed in my sweatshirt and PJ pants to finish the last 80 pages of The Likeness by Tana French. Cassie Maddox transferred out of Murder after the disastrous end to Operation Vestal (as recounted in In the Woods) and the complete collapse of her relationship with partner Adam Ryan. She has been working in the Domestic Violence squad when she gets a call down to a murder. At the dump site, she sees what might have sparked the interest of the detectives – the victim shares her face. A little more investigation reveals that this young woman is also an identity thief. The identity she stole is one Cassie used when she was working Undercover. Now, Cassie will assume the dead woman’s life, re-assuming her former identity, even though it now belongs more to the nameless body in the morgue. This was a great book. I found the first part of book, as Cassie is slowly learning as much as she can about the victim and getting ready to go under, so full of tension that I had a hard time reading more than about 5-10 pages at a time! By the end, I was having a hard time going to bed at a reasonable time. And I like how Tana French’s mysteries are a series, but sort of obliquely – that the first book was mainly Adam with some Cassie, this second book is mainly Cassie with some Frank. And from what I understand, the third book – Faithful Place – is mainly Frank and perhaps someone else. I am in line for that one!