Title: Dirty Martini (A Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels Novel)
Author: J.A. Konrath
Genre: Detective Mystery
I'm not a huge fan of mystery novels, strictly as a genre. I enjoy a good mystery as much as the next guy, but I think I'm a little sour on the whole police procedural style thanks to being inundated by episodes of Law & Otder, CSI, and countless other crime dramas on television. Well, when a good story comes along I can at least maintain an interest long enough to see where it goes. I've wanted to sample a J.A. Konrath novel after reading his blog and one of his short stories in a 2005 edition of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine titled "The Agreement," so when I spotted this one at my local library I scooped it up.
It's the fourth book in a series, so I was hesitant of becoming lost in back story as I read, but Konrath spared me and focused the story on the present rather than focusing on a larger story arc. And what back story there was, involving Jack's mother, her partner Herb, or her boyfriend Latham, was balanced well, so I didn't feel lost as the characters interacted. Bonus points for helping a simpleton like me catch up with Jack's life story in the series so far.
Jack just got engaged to Latham, despite reservations of entering a second marriage in her forties. With this sudden change in her life, a domestic terrorist named the Chemist--a psycho with a penchant for lacing food with botulism and other toxins--arrives on the scene to twist the Chicago police force in knots, along with her personal life. A loved one ends up in the hospital as a victim of the Chemist's antics, her partner questions his ability to remain on Homicide, and--because Jack is a local celeb thanks to her heroic actions in the three previous novels--the Chemist takes a personal interest in her. Oh, and the father she thought died when she was a child might not be dead after all. No big deal.
Even though things become very hectic, and I was worried the story would get bogged down or overly convoluted, Konrath manages to make Jack seem ordinary and relatable during the extraordinary events unfolding--her father's alive?! I didn't even know he was dead, and that twist got me.
The story unfolds at a good clip, reading Jack's story in the first-person, and getting glimpses into the Chemist's demented delight through a third-person present-tense narrative. While I got a good sense of who Jack Daniels was, Konrath was charitable enough to branch out so the entire book wasn't through her eyes alone. Readers get a kind of shadowy over-the-shoulder look at how the Chemist does his dirty work.
The bottom line is that this was a good yarn, and has enough meat on the bone to make me want to read another novel in this series ... and, like I said, I'm not a big mystery fan. In the meantime, I am looking forward to reading his latest book, a horror novel titled Afraid under the pseudonym of Jack Kilborn. Plus, his novella Serial, which he collaborated on with Blake Crouch.