Fatal Blow by James L. Thane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It’s another brutally hot summer day in Phoenix, and homicide detective Sean Richardson has to spend it fishing a headless and armless torso out of a canal. The only good news is that it still has the feet including a toe ring, and this clue leads Sean and his partner to suspect that a missing housewife, Becky Miller, is probably the victim and her cheating husband looks awfully guilty.
In the interest of full disclosure I need to note that James Thane is a longtime friend of mine here on Goodreads so I’m not even gonna try to pretend that this is an objective review. Please take my word that if it stank I’d just quietly ignore it, but fortunately it’s pretty good so I can talk about it.
There’s two parallel stories at work in this. One is the first person narration from Richardson which mixes a straight-up realistic police procedural with some on-going developments in his personal life which has been built up over the last couple of books. The other third-person story focuses on Becky in the weeks leading up to the discovery of the body in the canal. Regular readers of crime fiction can probably guess where the story is going yet there’s a couple of good twists and turns in there, and the ending was a nice surprise.
Overall, it’s a solid piece of crime fiction that has a good page turning vibe to it, and while it’s obviously a little gory with the whole chopped up body in the canal thing it doesn’t wallow in that like some books would. It’s also got an interesting shifting tone to it. The police stuff is a straight line narrative that you might see on something like Law & Order, but the Becky plot dealing with the crime has a much messier and emotional feel to it. It’s an unusual way to play it, but I particularly enjoyed Becky’s story which had a lot of clever crime elements. There’s also some nice detail work done that makes the reader really feel the desert heat as the characters roam around the city.
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