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by Margaret Coel
Berkley, September 2008
320 pages
ISBN: 0425223450

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Oh darn, I hate this. When I began reviewing back in late 1999, I worried because I know so many authors, many of whom are my friends. I've known Margaret Coel for at least fourteen years. I've been wholly positive about her Wind River series and I wanted very much to like this new turn, featuring Catherine McLeod, a journalist from Denver. But the book did not to live up to my expectations.

Mind you, it's not that I expected anything I can name. It's just that after writing thirteen books in a series, Coel has, without question, developed an expertise. Much of that is missing in this book. I have to wonder if this is an earlier effort, brought out because her publisher wanted something new in a hurry. That may be unfair. But there are so many things in BLOOD MEMORY that made me think "first novel" and I don't expect it from a talented writer with skills like Coel.

I knew the villain the moment that character was introduced. Yes, I read a lot of crime fiction, but I am still quite capable of being surprised. I was immediately suspicious of that character's behavior and I instantly said "this person has something to do with what is going on." I'm not that savvy about plots, so it was a red flag.

More disappointing was the repetition. There were several accounts of the Sand Creek massacre in 1864, for which the Whitehorse and Cheyenne tribes are seeking further compensation from the government. It's not that I discount such history, far from it, but nothing new was gained by reading it in a speech, then again to hear it repeated to someone and then a third time as McLeod read it in newspaper archives. I heard about the tribes' positions in Denver, then in Washington when the action moved to a congressional hearing. I never saw any reason to keep repeating the same information. This, for me, is usually a reason to stop reading. It hints at tired writing and a lack of editing. You can't keep telling the reader the same thing. There has to be a reason for recaps and I couldn't find them here.

Finally, I don't quite understand the need in mysteries to spend time in the mind of the bad guy.This is a very common device, and apparently a popular one. It's not a give-away to tell you that in this book, there are chapters set in the mind of a paid killer. But there is both too little information about him and too much. Why would a paid killer would call his victim up? I don't understand. Is he a psychopath who enjoys terrorizing people? That was never clear. At the same time, we hear his telephone calls to his wife about the kids and we see that he leads a double life. But there's no real reason for that either. He remains a paid killer and I didn't understand the padding.

Coel has built a solid reputation and has written a slew of interesting mysteries. I never warmed to Catherine McLeod, and while I kept hoping for more movement in the plot, I just got bogged down. I read to the end to confirm, alas, that I‛d been right in picking out the villain straight away, and that was the only reason I stuck around. This book was a disappointment.

Reviewed by Andi Shechter, August 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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