Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Place of Exile by Rose Beecham
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Jennifer Fulton, writing as Rose Beecham, has produced another in the Jude Devine mystery series. Unlike some series that become trite over time and show no character growth, Beecham's Devine books are getting stronger.
The Four Corners of the US Southwest is a perfect setting for these books. The area seems to be a magnet for cults, paramilitary organizations, White Supremacist groups and every other loose cannon in American society. In Place of Exile, Jude Devine, who is an undercover FBI agent working as a sheriff's deputy, finds herself dealing simultaneously with the murder of an arms dealer, fighting between rival supremacist organizations, a terror threat on the Telluride Film Festival and a rogue military veteran who is on a self-appointed assassination mission against Vice President Cheney. Jude has to do a delicate dance in trying to resolve these cases, changing her role to suit each situation, and trying not to have her cover blown.
Jude doesn't mind taking on extra assignments, however, because they help to distract her from her tangled personal life. The woman she loves has "married" a famous actress, but she won't leave Jude alone and Jude finds that, no matter how hard she tries, she can't purge Dr. Mercy Westmoreland from her blood. And she does try, especially when Special Agent in Charge Aidan Hill arrives to coordinate the antiterrorism activities and strikes sparks with Jude.
If there is a drawback to this book, it may be that there seems to be too much going on, except that Beecham weaves the threads together in a convincing plot. Each story line reaches a conclusion, not always happy, but enough threads are left dangling to indicate that Jude Devine will probably make another appearance in the future.
The skill that Beecham has developed while writing more than seventeen novels in her various personas is obvious. She writes a very tight book. There aren't any wasted scenes and the plot flows very smoothly even though it's dealing with multiple aspects. One of the strengths of Beecham's writing is that she is able to convey a great deal of information in a limited number of words. When the reader gets within thirty or so pages of the end of the book, it appears that it will be impossible to conclude all of the story lines, but Beecham pulls it off in a very satisfying manner. It would be difficult to find any section of this book that could be edited out without having a detrimental effect on the whole work.
The various themes, instead of conflicting with each other, blend to create a feeling that is very realistic. Actual agents are surely required to deal with multiple cases while handling life's personal trials just as Jude is. An impressive point about the book, though, is the tremendous amount of research that went into creating the story. Even someone who is well-read will find that she learns new information about the topics. The fact that Beecham is able to spend the time to collect all of these details while turning out other books is very impressive.
The important thing to note about this series is that it isn't static. Jude isn't solving the same situation book after book and she's not always dealing with the same people. New characters drift in and out and new information is revealed that keeps adding to the character of Jude herself. This is the book that explains why Jude has sentenced herself to this place of exile and the personal torment from early in her life that drives what she does today. It's the perfect set up for another book.