Thursday, December 02, 2010

British Columbia Mystery: NEGATIVE IMAGE, Vicki Delany

In this fourth in the series featuring Constable Molly Smith, Vicki Delany spins a solid traditional mystery with some great twists of tension. The mountain town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, has just the right amount of isolation to ramp up tension, too, especially for Constable Smith. Young and low in prestige in the local police force, Molly has a lot on her mind -- her father's health, her mother's eccentricity, and worst of all, a stalker threatening her in ways that she's afraid to report, for fear the guys on the job will consider her a wimp.

She's mistaken: Sergeant John Winters thinks highly of her and would have preferred to know about the stalker, right up front. But Winters in turn is sweating a murder case where his own wife looks like a suspect -- and he's so upset with his wife for concealing part of her long-ago past that he's more than half ready to believe she had something to do with the death of famous photographer Rudolph Steiner.

Add the predictable friction of the local force with an overbearing member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (unfortunately, Molly's boyfriend) and Molly's even less likely to take the steps she'd suggest to anyone else in her shoes:
A man stepped out of the dark doorway of Rosemary's Campfire Kitchen, the shop next door. He was dressed all in black, with a toque pulled low over his forehead. "Evening, Molly." He stood in front of her, blocking the sidewalk.

"F*** off."

"Nice night, eh? Can I walk you home?"


He stepped aside and she passed. He fell into step behind her. She stopped and turned. "Go away, Charlie."

"Or what, Molly? Not so tough when you don't have your gun, are you? ... When you're out here, on the streets, you're no different than the rest of us. ... Without all the gear, you know what you are, Molly? You're just a woman."  He cracked his knuckles.
Both Molly Smith and John Winters suffer major losses in this one, and eventually solving the crime won't make up for the personal setbacks. But the courage involved, and the determined efforts of these two investigators, add up to a heck of a good book. Dark enough to portray the real evil of murder and threats, NEGATIVE IMAGE makes it clear that hard winters are the least of the trouble -- it's the people and their pressures that Delany, a retired systems analyst, lays out so skillfully. A tip of the hat to Poisoned Pen Press for bringing this out as 2010 accelerates toward a finale.

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