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Bloody Mary, J.A. Konrath, Hyperion, $22.95.

Bloody Mary by J.A. Konrath

This is an odd comment, but this second novel by J.A. Konrath seems more relaxed than the first - he seems more comfortable with the whole enterprise. The characters are running smoothly, he's got a gripping plot, and the dialogue is light and funny. And since the first book was itself pretty relaxed and pleasant, that's saying a lot. It's hard to resist Bloody Mary - Konrath makes this look so easy, but I've read enough tedious, woodenly peopled thrillers to know that it can't be easy. His central character, Jack Daniels, a Chicago Police Lieutenant, is a smart, capable woman who can't get her love life quite right. In this novel, it's more than her love life that's in trouble, as her mother, who's had a few bad falls in her apartment in Florida, moves in, bringing her 80 something boyfriend along with her. They are frequently asking Jack to give them some "space".

Meanwhile, Jack is tracking down a serial killer who is so good at covering his tracks that the police are having a hard time catching him. In a novel like this, the serial killer is more of a plot device than an actual scary monster, and so while the book has some gore in it, it's really not too bad. It doesn't linger, until the end, when the killer turns his attention to Jack's mother. Since the title of the book is Bloody Mary and Jack's mother's name is Mary, that should give the reader a clue about how things might go. The final denouement gives Konrath a chance to really deepen Jack's character, and makes the reader care about her even more, which is a smart move in a sophomore effort. It made me cry, and hope for better things for Jack in her next outing. I think Konrath is walking the trickiest tightrope around - he's writing a series that appeals to both men and women. He's writing gripping, fast moving thrillers for his male readers, and he's supplying an interesting female character for his women readers, and for everyone, there's a good dose of humor. Thinking about the love life of Jack's partner still gives me a smile. This is a wonderful new series and good addition to anyone's revolving list of novels and characters to include on their nightstand.


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