It must be my old age, but I'd completely forgotten that I'd read and disliked "Frantic", the first book in this series, a few years ago. So it took me a couple of chapters to twig while reading this entry that I'd come across these characters before.
However, like I've said before, it always pays to give an author a second chance, as I quite enjoyed "Violent Exposure". While the horrid Sophie Phillips from "Frantic" is mentioned every now and then, she's never physically present in the storyline. Instead, the focus is on Det. Ella Marconi and her partner Det. Dennis Marconi as they investigate the murder of Suzanne Crawford.
It looks like a domestic violence-related homicide, as her husband Connor cannot be located. However, there are more than a few complications for the detectives to sort out:
- There is no trace of Connor beyond a few years ago. What secret is he hiding?
- The man who found Suzanne's body is not being upfront with the detectives.
- A paramedic, Aidan, who attended to Suzanne the day before her murder, reveals that he had sexual relations with her. And he may not have been her first affair.
- Young Emil from Streetlights - a youth-assistance program that Suzanne's nursery supported - has also gone missing.
There is also a subplot involving Mick, another paramedic (who's training Aidan) who faces a moral dilemma after discovering a lot of cash at the residence of a dead drug dealer. This is the book's only real drawback. It is only tangentially connected to the plot, and could be removed entirely from the proceedings without really affecting anything, with a couple of quick edits. This subplot also contributes to the book's unnecessary, icky sex scenes.
Time wasted on this subplot could have been spent on fleshing out the motivations for the villain.
I found I quite liked Ella Marconi. I related to her worries about her parents' health, and appreciated that she had a close relationship with them. Rather than having yet another cliched detective-with-baggage, Howell gives us a strong, capable heroine whose complexity isn't defined by the tragedies she's endured.
Other than Mick's storyline, this is a tightly-plotted police procedural thriller. In my opinion, Howell largely avoids cliches and delivered a book I read in two sittings. I didn't pick the identity of the bad guy, and none of the characters made stupid decisions to make me want to throw the book across the room.
There you go. I'm going to check out some more from Katherine Howell, though I hope I never have to call an ambulance when I'm in New South Wales, considering all the trouble the paramedics in these books find themselves in.