Sunday, April 22, 2018

Detroit Crime Fiction Thrives with Jane Haseldine's Third, WORTH KILLING FOR

The full-page ads in major newspaper review sections promote established mystery authors where publishers take little risk. And that's why the crime fiction coming from Kensington isn't showing up in those splashy ads. But this New York publisher now has an overwhelming back list, and an impressive roster of new releases -- with some excellent authors lined up.

Jane Haseldine, who lives in California, worked the crime beat as a journalist (and held political positions) before she transitioned to crime fiction. She comes with life experience, as well as plenty of cold cases in mind. And in Detroit's variegated cityscape of wealth, poverty, empty districts, and uncertain infrastructure, she has the perfect terrain to explore both violence and corruption, those mainstays of dark suspense. Add to this the feisty and often emotional Julia Gooden, crime reporter and victim of the city's inner darkness, and the series leapt into intense action.

In this third book in the series, WORTH KILLING FOR, Julia Gooden would like to think her life is stable -- especially for the sake of her two young sons. Dating a police detective isn't making that stability easy, since she's always juggling the urge for an exclusive advance look at a crime (and her editor's pressure), with a necessary discretion about things she's not supposed to find out ahead of the other reporters.

But there are far worse complications possible, as Julia's past rises up to tear holes in her life, as her detective boyfriend admits he's checked out her long-absent father's record:
"I'm not sure if you knew this already, but your dad served some time."

"I know. I was five. Ben [her brother] told me Duke [their dad] was on a business trip so I wouldn't be upset. But one of the kids on our school bus, his dad was a prison guard and knew that my dad was locked up. The kid told everybody on the bus ride home one day about my dad being a convict, and Ben punched him in the nose. We had to walk the rest of the way because the bus driver kicked Ben off, and I wasn't going to stay on there without him."

"There's a note in your dad's file that he was affiliated with a man named Peter Jonti, a hood who served time at the same prison with Duke. Jonti was younger than your dad, but it looks like he was connected. I did a check, and Jonti got popped again recently, but he's out now and working at a sushi joint downtown ..."

Julia jotted the name of her father's former associate down in pen on the palm of her hand.

"I'll check him out," Julia said. There's one thing that keeps coming back to me about what went down in Sparrow. Before Jameson died, he said Duke took something that didn't belong to him, and when that happened, things got taken from him. He could've meant Ben. I'm certain of it."
That's an urgent problem to solve, because Julia's brother Ben is a cold case -- he's been missing since their childhood. And soon she's sure that Duke, their dad, is back in Detroit, using her as a lightning rod to attract danger while searching for some kind of treasure from the past.

Was Ben kidnapped to punish Duke? Or was his disappearance connected with other cold cases? Or both? Julia's haunted by the notion that Ben might still need to be found. But what she opts to do, and the stones she turns over, create a hazardous situation for her own children -- and add to the risks of her love life.

Great complications, rapid pacing, powerful twists, and the equally haunting terrain of Detroit itself make WORTH KILLING FOR well worth reading. Haseldine's on a roll -- her previous book, Duplicity, also whipped Julia Gooden's reporting life into sharp suspense. This is definitely a series to collect (and you don't need any ginormous newspaper ads to signal it, right?).

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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