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Posts Tagged ‘female police detective’

THE DIME by Kathleen Kent: Book Review

What happens when you transplant a tough, lesbian, third-generation detective from Brooklyn to Dallas?  You get a woman who knows how to handle sexual harassment, violent drug dealers, and uppity real estate brokers, that’s what happens.

Elizabeth Rhyzyk, known to all as Betty, comes from a family with deep roots in the New York City Police Department.  Her grandfathers, father, uncle, and brother were all members of the Department, but she is the first woman in the family to join.  She’s compiled an outstanding record of arrests, but when the last member of her family dies she moves to Dallas, the home of her lover Jackie’s family.

Not that Jackie’s mother, grandmother, aunts, and uncles welcome this Northern transplant.  They blame her for corrupting Jackie into this “alternative” lifestyle, and Betty is finding it as difficult to be with them as it is to deal with the influx of drugs that is creating a war between the homegrown gangsters and the Mexican cartels, with bodies littering the Texas landscape.

A carefully planned surveillance by Betty’s narcotics team is interrupted by a well-meaning woman, and it ends with three people dead–the woman, the drug dealer the detectives are trying to arrest, and a local cop who has nothing to do with the anticipated arrest.  It leaves Betty and the other members of the team struggling to deal with the violent ending to what should have been a peaceful major drug bust.

The tentacles of the drug trade are nothing new in the city, but the violence is beyond what the Dallas police have been used to.  Betty is familiar with hazards at work, but now it’s becoming personal.  While she’s out jogging in the early morning, someone comes into the double-locked apartment that she and Jackie share and leaves a bizarre souvenir on Betty’s side of the bed, all without waking her sleeping partner.  And things escalate from there.

Kathleen Kent has written a spectacular first novel.  I’m a little late in coming to The Dime, since it’s already been nominated for an Edgar® for the Best Novel by the Mystery Writers of America, but I totally agree with the nomination.  The writing is excellent, the plot original, and the characters are great creations.  Betty’s Dallas narcotics team is totally believable, as is her relationship with Jackie.  The reality of creating a loving homosexual relationship in a not-very-accepting community is made clear, when even something as mundane as trying to place an order in a restaurant can prove to be a difficult experience.

You can read more about Kathleen Kent at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.



THE ODDS by Kathleen George: Book Review

Odds are, you’ll really enjoy The Odds.  Oh, that was bad, wasn’t it?  But truly, Kathleen George’s Edgar-nominated mystery is excellent.

I haven’t read any of her other books and chose The Odds because of its nomination.  It’s the third in a series of police procedurals that take place in Pittsburgh’s North Side, an area totally unfamiliar to me as I’ve never been to the Steel City.  It seems like a gritty place, with plenty to keep the city’s police busy.

Colleen Greer is the heroine, a police detective in the Homicide Bureau.  She’s got an unrequited crush, if one can use that word to describe the feelings of an adult, on her captain, a married man and father of two who is beginning a treatment of chemo for cancer.  This has upset the balance of power in the department and Colleen and fellow detective John Potocki are taken from Homicide and added to the Narcotics roster to help with a big drug bust, much against Colleen’s will.

At the same time, four children in the neighborhood, the oldest being fourteen, are left to their own devices after their stepmother leaves them virtually penniless to find an old flame in New York.  The children’s mother abandoned them several years ago and later died, and their late father made a hasty, unwise marriage so his children would have a mother.  But this stepmother is less mature than any of her stepchildren, and after the father’s death in an auto accident she decides the responsibility is too much for her.  The children, fearful of being sent to foster care and thus separated, decide not to tell the authorities they’re on their own and do their best to keep themselves a family.  And their best is outstanding.  But can they beat the odds?

The children and the police intersect when the only boy, twelve-year-old Joel, goes into an abandoned house and finds two men–one badly wounded and one dead.  When fourteen-year-old Meg goes back to the house with her brother, she recognizes the wounded man as the one in the corner pizza place who gave her a free pizza the day before. Given these kids’ sense of fairness and goodness, they decide to help him, even if that means not telling the cops about the dead man.

Although I felt that the children’s abilities and resourcefulness were a bit too much, the author does make all of them, especially Meg, believable.  Perhaps because the alternative to success is a failure that would break up the family, the children rise to incredible heights to keep their family unit intact.  All gifted in school, they prove their resourcefulness by car-washing, babysitting, clerking in a market, anything to keep bodies and souls together.  And that resourcefulness helps them with Nick, the wounded man.

There’s a lot of tension in this novel, and a lot of tenderness too.  Any reader must be on the children’s side as they work hard to keep teachers and neighbors from knowing that they’re living without adult supervision.  Dad and mom are always “working” when people ask for a parent-teacher conference, and it’s sad and probably true that the adults in this world never follow up.  But one only has to read the papers to find that children’s welfare has slipped through the cracks of bureaucracy too many times.  So perhaps the Philips children are better off on their own.  Kathleen George has certainly succeeded in bringing both the children and the police to life and in making the reader care about them all.

You can read more about Kathleen George at her web site.