Thursday, August 18, 2011

State of Denial by Andi Marquette

Publisher:             Regal Crest Enterprises

Andi Marquette returns to the US southwest for the setting of her novel State of Denial and reacquaints her readers with the characters from her previous work Land of Entrapment, but in reverse order. This time Albuquerque police detective Chris Gutierrez takes the lead position and her best friend K.C. Fontero is in the supporting role.

A naked body found in a shallow grave in the desert soon leads Chris and her partner Dale Harper on a search for what appears to be a serial killer and their investigation leads them to a conservative mega church with a very popular minister who likes to start programs to cure people of being gay. Their efforts to prove who the murderer is has them traveling across the country and trying to tie together the pieces of more than one murder. Although they quickly settle on a suspect, the challenge is to find the evidence to prove what they suspect before anyone else dies. 

K.C. becomes invaluable with her knowledge of cults and fanatical groups and the contacts she has to help them uncover information. Chris finds herself dealing with another mystery at the same time. She’s strongly attracted to lawyer Dayna Carson, but she’s not sure of how Dayna feels about her and there seems to be something lurking in Dayna’s past that she doesn’t want to share.
At times Chris doesn’t know which is more frustrating, trying to figure out if she and Dayna can establish a lasting relationship or solving the murders. As Chris draws nearer to closing the case, the danger escalates beyond what she expected and there is a real possibility that she could end up losing everything.

Fans of the old “Columbo” series will enjoy this book. Just as in that show, there is little doubt from almost the beginning as to who the killer probably is, so the meat of the story is in how the two detectives piece the evidence together. Marquette gives a very adept lesson in how detective work, contrary to most stories, isn’t a lot of excitement with sudden revelations of truth, but a painstaking process of spending a lot of time collecting information, interviewing and re-interviewing people, and trying to manipulate suspects into revealing more than they want to. She holds the reader’s attention through the process by including interesting characters who add color to the story. 

Marquette also shows that she knows how to use dialogue to reveal insight into what is happening and to explain why the story is developing as it is. At one point, Chris is curious about why an earlier church has not questioned some of Rev. Chaz’s behavior and a witness gives a telling explanation: “The Southern thing to do is to whisper behind your hand over lunch about other people’s personal lives. So I knew that some people knew about me though I wasn’t formally out, and I knew that they didn’t approve, but they were courteous and as long as I didn’t make any big do about it, neither did they. Typical Southern stand-off about skeletons in the closet. Don’t ask, but tell in low voices around the kitchen table.” Anyone who has ever lived in the South will chuckle at how dead-on that description is.

Andi Marquette provides excellent writing, well developed stories and characters who unfold gradually to the reader in a process of discovery. Her characters aren’t one dimensional in their emotions and behavior. State of Denial is thoroughly entertaining and highly recommended for reading.

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