Saturday, June 8, 2013

Michaelbrent Collings, Blood Relations

Blood Relations: A Good Mormon Girl Mystery First, a disclaimer: Michaelbrent is my cousin, and I've always felt vaguely guilty because I haven't read more of his books--but as his genre of preference is horror/thriller, you couldn't really pay me enough to read them. (I frighten myself enough as it is). When he announced a new book that was a genre I *do* read (mystery!), I was more than happy to purchase it. And perhaps this was a little naive of me, but the noir-ish cover and the "good Mormon girl" subtitle led me to expect something along the lines of classic mystery (Sayers, Christie, etc.).

This was not the book I was expecting.

Lane Cooley (the titular "Good Mormon Girl") is a captain with the LAPD. The story opens with her involvement in what begins to look like a serial murder case: beautiful young blond girls, killed with a blow to the head and then eviscerated. (Smart readers will recognize at this point that these kind of details are not consistent with the sort of mystery I was expecting!) She's struggling to balance her busy, intense work-life with the care of a teenage sister, Izzy, who is busy rejecting the faith that Lane clings to and generally enjoying her teenage rebellion.

But then Lane realizes that her sister, under her dyed hair, is a dead-ringer for the dead girls. More than that, the few clues they find suggest that the killer might be a cop--a cop that knows her, knows Izzy. And when the killer himself comes forward with hints that his next target is Izzy, Lane's case shifts from professional to personal.

The plotting in this story was stellar. It opened strong, but the last third was riveting. I thought I had the killer identified early on and was feeling smug about that, but then Michaelbrent got me to reconsider that not just once, but twice--ultimately blindsiding me with a suspect I did not see coming.

This isn't to to say the story was perfect: I thought the characterization of Izzy, especially at the beginning, was a little overdone, and I didn't think that the story needed the details about Lane being the Relief Society president (particularly as that didn't really add anything to the story). I did like that Lane was open about her beliefs without being preachy, although some of her behaviors (her abhorence of swearing and smoking, for instance) seemed part of a wider LDS stereotype I would have liked to see challenged, or at least complicated.

But it was definitely a book that kept me up later than I should have been, frantically reading to the finish.

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