June 15, 2009

Book Review: "Dirty Martini" by J.A. Konrath

Title: Dirty Martini (A Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels Novel)
Author: J.A. Konrath
Publisher: Hyperion
Published: 2007
Pages: 290

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.


  1. I'm not too much of a crime thriller fan, but, I did enjoy Lost Dog by Bill Cameron (it was his debut novel, and a thoroughly good one), if you can get hold of a copy it's well worth reading.

    I do like Ian Rankin's Rebus novels. I'm steadily making my way through them from the beginning.

  2. I can't say I've ever read an Ian Rankin novel. Read an Ian McEwan novel a while back called "Amsterdam." It was okay, but it didn't exactly win me over. Jack Higgins had a good one a while back. I forget the title, though.

    It's a huge genre.

  3. Thanks for commenting on my review of this novel - I recall reading some of Ian Rankin's rebus novels, but stopped when they got incredibly depressing!

  4. I've heard that about Rankin's work. And after all this time, I've yet to read one of his novels. Thanks for stopping by the blog.