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WALLA WALLA SUITE
by Anne Argula
Ballantine, September 2007
288 pages
$12.95
ISBN: 0345498429


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

I went for this book because I remembered liking Argula's first odd book, HOMICIDE MY OWN. This time however, it didn't work. Either the charm of the character and writing has worn off, or it's not as good, or my tastes have changed or my mood has. If the things that bugged me in book two were even present in book one, I'd be very surprised. I get tired of quirky really fast, if I read it at all.

One quirk in this book, for example, is the protagonist's use of odd expressions. About the third "Woi Yesus!" from this sleuth, a woman known only as Quinn and I was ready to put it down for good. That's not enough reason to quit, especially when the book is set in Seattle, where I live, so I kept on, grumbling. Then I came across "da frick", something Quinn says far too often and I started twitching. Far too often. (I believe it's a version of "WTF" but don't ask me to prove it.)

Quinn is a private detective who recently relocated from Spokane where she was a police officer. Her friend Vincent has the curious job of "mitigation investigator", a position designed to keep convicted killers from capital punishment. It's impossible to get a sense of either individual and the reality of Vincent's job is odd. I had to check and yes, this job truly exists throughout the US. Would there be only one in the entire Northwest and only a few in the nation? It's a unique situation and one that I might have found more intriguing but I don't understand the relationship between the people involved here nor do I get the set-up.

A young woman, Eileen Jones, whom apparently Quinn met once, goes missing. A man is arrested, and apparently Vincent is immediately involved because he's charged with Murder One. Everything happens far too quickly. And conflict of interest never seems to be mentioned, even when Vincent's acquaintance with the dead woman, along with his friendship with Quinn, call into question his ability to do a professional unbiased job finding mitigating factors in the case of the accused (who hasn't been tried yet, but justice sure happens swiftly in this version of my city.)

The story did not work. Things happen at the wrong time. When the young woman's boss starts "Friends of Eileen", I found it wholly unconvincing. When do employers get that involved? Support groups and organizations are started by families and loved ones.

There is a side story of Quinn's relationship with Vincent which seems to include a sort of buddy, sort of maybe romance odd friendship. We meet Vincent's father in another puzzling side story. Vincent says things like" "A sense of deep dread is unfolding inside of me, Quinn". Do people really talk like that? I don't think so.

No one is remotely happy or even content in this book; it carries a sense of depression and malaise, which again, leaves me puzzled as I've seen the book described as humorous. Where? It reads as if someone decided "rainy Seattle" must have lots of depressed people. The author has supposedly lived here for several years and I don't recognize any of these characters as people I have encountered in the last 17 years.

I kept reading because I kept thinking something would work here. After all I had liked the first one, right? So what went wrong? I knew who did it after the first encounter with that character. The book never settled in for me and it felt sloppy and careless. I even take issue with where Quinn chooses to live (an ex-cop wants to live in Pioneer Square? Wouldn't she want some quiet?) and with the quirky title which has a parenthetical "A room with no view" after it. What is that?

Whatever charm Quinn had for me two years ago has completely worn off.

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, August 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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