Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ill Will by J.M. Redmann

Publisher:          Bold Strokes Books

Ill Will is the seventh installment in the Micky Knight mystery series.  It’s set in a New Orleans that is still struggling to recover from the effects of Hurricane Katrina and this time Micky is dealing with the shysters and scam artists who have moved into the city.  One case has her representing the victims of builders who have taken their money and then disappeared.  Another case has her trying to track down the source of herbal supplements that are being sold to desperately sick people as an alternative to standard medications.  With so few doctors in the city, people will try anything to cure their illnesses.

Micky and her partner Cordelia are struggling as much as the city.  Their relationship has suffered some severe strains and they are gingerly trying to regain the trust and support they once shared.  They will rediscover their feelings when a life threatening illness appears in their lives.  Each woman will be called on to demonstrate strength neither knew that she had.  In the process they will have to reassess what is truly important.

Like the previous two books in the series, Ill Will has a more serious tone than the earlier books.  This can only be expected in stories that are so strongly rooted in New Orleans.  The question is, is Redmann trying to describe what has happened to the city or exorcise demons from the experience of the aftermath of the hurricane?  Probably it’s some of both.  New Orleans had lived by the slogan “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll) and the city is still trying in these books to return to those good times.  Redmann captures how difficult that is as she has Micky describe the destruction and barrenness that grip the area.  The reader can feel the horror of the event whenever Micky describes the impact that being stranded in a hospital had on Cordelia.  It doesn’t take much to evoke the famous images of bodies lying in the streets and houses.  This is a city occupied by ghosts, living and dead.  The posttraumatic stress of the citizens is almost another character. 

Mickey offers a bit of wisdom about the relationship between Cordelia and her:  More important, we agreed that we had to find more ways to…capture the small moments and be together…. But how you spend time can be more important than saving time.  It’s not much of a stretch however to see how this same philosophy, with a twist, applies to the city and the people who survive there.  New Orleans has moved on.  It’s a different city with a new demographic that remembers the past, but is facing the future.  How they live now is more important than how they lived.  Perhaps Redmann will use her next book to show Micky and her friends moving forward with the city instead of being so rooted in their memories.

The major weakness in the story is one that reappears in every Micky Knight book, so it’s really a habit of Redmann’s.  Micky always starts off with two cases that have nothing to do with each other and by the end of the book, they end up being the same case.  In a city with a reduced population this might be more possible than in the past, but New Orleans is still a major city.  To believe that unrelated events always come together as parts of the same whole is more than improbable.

Redmann’s mysteries are never as much about who did it as they are about how Micky is going to prove it.  Certain aspects of the puzzle become evident very quickly.  The intrigue comes as Micky tries to fit the pieces together and bring the culprits to justice without getting herself or anyone else killed.  For that experience alone, it’s always interesting to read a Micky Knight mystery.

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