Saturday, August 20, 2011
Unkindness of Ravens by Kathleen Tracy
Unkindness of Ravens introduces a new mystery series starring Sam Perry, a highly successful crime reporter. Sam has fled Los Angeles, where she covered many sensational murders and made a career writing books about her experiences, and is living in Palm Springs. Sam had reached the limit of her tolerance for murder and mayhem and needed a change of life, but now she's getting restless, which her editor realizes, so Sam is sent to cover the story of a body found in the desert, a body that has no identity and has been slowly and mercilessly tortured to death.
As Sam begins to unravel the mystery of this young man, she finds that every answer simply opens up more questions. Some of those questions involve the campaign of Ellen Konrad, former movie queen and television star, who is running for the position of mayor in Palm Springs. Was the man murdered because of his unusually close relationship with Konrad or did he know something that was damaging to her political career? Or maybe the murder is tied to his fondness for hanging out in a strip club that has shady overtones.
Sam and Ellen find themselves being drawn to each other by strong emotions, emotions that threaten Sam's ability to remain impartial and solve the murder, no matter who is hurt. The trick will be to answer the questions without destroying her new friendship with Ellen and the possibility of a future before them.
Tracy has introduced a promising new mystery series. Sam Perry is a highly likeable character and having her approach mysteries from the angle of being a reporter provides a different twist on the genre. It's interesting to see Sam move through the process of collecting bits and pieces of information that slowly put the puzzle together.
Tracy has written other books and, although not in the mystery genre, this probably gives her the writing experience to be able to twist and turn Unkindness of Ravens in believable ways so that the mystery is not solved until the very last of the story. This is a valuable skill in a genre where too often the answer to the puzzle is all too obvious before the story has progressed half way.
The attraction between Sam and Ellen is also handled extremely well. Though there is definitely the possibility of a relationship, whether or not it will progress is still not clear at the end of the book. It takes a confident writer to be able to leave a relationship dangling without resolution, but it fits this book perfectly.