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UNDER A BROKEN SKY by Kris Calvin: Book Review

Emma Lawson isn’t a detective, but she has many of the characteristics of one.  She’s tough, determined, smart, and very, very good at putting puzzle pieces together.  She’s the youngest ethics investigator in California state history, and she’s enjoying every minute of her job.

As the novel opens she’s promised her closest friend, Kate, to pick up two tables for Kate’s engagement party, so now she’s with Kate’s son Luke as they approach the Ideal Storage facility to pick up those items.

The two load Kate’s tables into the car’s trunk, and Luke gets on his bike and wheels away.  Just as Emma is about to start the Mustang, an explosion rips the air and fire pours from the building’s broken windows.  When they were in the facility, the manager said he was going to the basement, so Emma runs back inside to find him and sees him lying in a pool of blood.  She loads him into a nearby cart and the two are able to exit the building; when she’s a safe distance away she calls 911.

The following day several seemingly unrelated events occur.  The first is that there appears some question about a death the previous month that was determined to be an accidental drowning.  The body of Johnny Hill, son of a high level Sacramento government official, had been found in a nearby lake shortly after his return from The Netherlands.  Now a witness has come forward that reopens the case with the possibility that it was murder.

In addition, the head of the city’s major crimes unit, Alibi Morning Sun, is told that there had been a fatality at Ideal Storage.  Alibi says that he thought the employee, the man whom Emma had rescued, had been expected to recover.  No, his aide tells him, it’s another man, one who had no identification on his body.  So if the fire department believes that the fire was deliberately set, Alibi says, “Then that would make our arsonist a killer.”

At the same time Emma is interviewed about the Ethics Commission by a young Dutch woman who is in Sacramento as an exchange student from the University of Amsterdam.  All is proceeding as Emma expects until Daphne VerStrate starts asking questions about Johnny Hill and his mother Fran, questions that have nothing to do with the Commission or Emma’s position.  Emma deflects the questions, but they leave her with an uneasy feeling that perhaps the interview was simply a pretext for getting more information about the young man’s death.

Under A Broken Sky is the second excellent mystery in this series, following All That Fall.  The plot moves briskly, Emma is a fresh and appealing character, and the supporting characters, both major and minor, help make this novel compelling.  I look forward to many more adventures with Emma Lawson.

You can read more about Kris Calvin 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 OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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