Archive for the ‘The Burning Room’ Category

I’ll readily admit, I’m betwixt and between on this one. BetrayedWe all like to get involved with the characters in a book and in a series, such as Scottoline’s Rosato & Associates, there are a few we really like such as Judy Carrier, the non-conformist of the bunch. We like to see them grow and change over time. We like to get into their personal lives, not just the legal or mystery aspect. But sometimes, the personal life intrudes too much, as it did in Betrayed (at least for me), especially when the mystery portion isn’t all that compelling.

Judy has just received some shocking news–her Aunt Barb has breast cancer and is undergoing a mastectomy in two days. She’s kept it a secret from Judy and her mother, Delia. Judy races to her home. Delia has already flown in from the West Coast. When she arrives, she meets Aunt Barb’s best friend, Iris Juarez, an undocumented Mexican who does chores for Barb and gardens with her. Iris is just leaving for another job.

Later that evening, the police knock on Barb’s door with the sad news that Iris had an apparent heart attack while driving and died at the side of the road. Barb is devastated. Avid gardeners both (Iris and Barb), Barb decides to plant a rose in Iris’ memory and asks Judy to go into the garage to find the bush that she and Iris were going to plant that weekend. Ever the curious lawyer, Judy stumbles across two coolers and looking inside one finds a significant amount of money—later determined to be almost $10,000. Of course, Judy thinks/realizes that Iris’s death and the money are related, leading to, in this reader’s humble opinion, a truly unbelievable, unrealistic story.

So, why am I betwixt and between? Because towards the end there were some touching family related scenes between mother and daughter. And those few pages were emotional enough to salvage what otherwise was an average tale.

A side plot concerns new business the firm received–determining settlement amounts for victims of asbestos. Unfortunately, they are on the manufacturer’s side, not the victims’, thus their goal is to minimize damage payments. Since Judy is concerned about her aunt and whether she will survive surgery and possible radiation, determining the ‘value of human life’ is not something Judy wants to do, is totally against the firm taking the business and her actually handling the settlements. While this would have been a more compelling story, it is wrapped up way too easily and totally unsatisfactorily, in my opinion.

As I said when reviewing The Burning Room by Michael Connolly, I think series authors get tired. There’s an expectation of a new book every 12 – 18 months, so they write but their enthusiasm wanes and that’s how I felt about Betrayed. I just didn’t feel any author enthusiasm.

Let me close by saying that if you think I’m getting persnickety in my old age and nothing will please me, I have read some great mysteries in the past year. Gripping stories. Great writing. Endearing characters. They are out there. Maybe just not from the old tried and true authors we’ve been reading for years. (Sermon over.)

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Some things age to perfection. Would that it was Michael Connelly’sBurningRoom Harry Bosch series. The quality of the stories in this series range from great to not so great, with The Burning Room logging in somewhere around average. (This might be a good time to point out, though, that I’ve panned several mysteries recently that other journals have mysteriously (pun intended) lauded. So, you might take my opinion with a grain of salt.)

Bosch, a year and a half away from forced retirement, is working cold cases. He’s paired with relative newby, Lucia Soto, a heroine cop for being involved in a deadly shootout with armed robbers. A mariachi musician, Orlando Merced, who 10 years earlier was shot and paralyzed, has recently died and the cause was an infection directly caused by the bullet which was never removed, thus making it a homicide. An Hispanic mayoral candidate at the time,Armando Zeyas, used Merced in his campaign to illustrate the lack of police presence in the Latino neighborhoods and has now renewed the reward offer he made 10 years prior. There is little evidence to work with.

Soto has her own reasons for choosing Cold Cases. In 1989, as a young girl, she survived a fire in the derelict building that housed the illegal day care center she attended.  Nine people, mostly children, died in the fire. The fire, originally deemed accidental, was ultimately determined to have been arson. No one was ever charged with the crime. She convinces Bosch to review the case, off the record, since their assigned case is getting a lot of internal and media attention.

There’s not a lot of action in The Burning Room, but that’s not necessarily a detriment since it’s a police procedural…more plodding than action oriented. However, in my opinion there are way too many wide leaps, stretches to get from the initial murder investigation to the final outcome. The story line is OK, not overly compelling but not bad.

I like Lucy Soto as a new character, anxious to please, willing to learn from the master, but no dope either. If Connelly wants to create a new series around a Hispanic protagonist, Soto would be the person character, showing how she comes into her own as a result of working with Bosch.

I just get the feeling Connelly is getting tired of Bosch; getting a little stale. After 17 books, it may be time for something new.

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