River City Crime novel, No 3
Gray Dog Press
2009/ ISBN 9781936178124
Pol Procedural / Washington State / Contemporary
by L J Roberts
First Sentence: Heather Torin never intended to be a victim.
The police officers of River City, WA have a problem
on their hands in the form of a serial, stranger rapist. They have
no description, no physical evidence and no real leads except that
he is becoming more violent with each incident. Detective John Tower,
Officers Giovanni, Sully, Chisholm and Officer Katie MacLeod are
out to stop him while dealing with personal ghosts and life-threatening
First, because I read absolutely everything in
a book, let me say I liked the literary quotes at the beginning
of each part of the story; the fist by Gauguin being a particularly
favorite of mine.
Frank Zafiro’s years on the police force are
evident in the realism on every page, from the quibbling between
partners to the procedure of the investigation. While there are
other writers with similar backgrounds, not everyone can translate
the knowledge into characters and excellent dialogue as real and
compelling as the experiences that formed them. Zafiro does.
I, and others, have compared Zafiro’s books
to Ed McBain in that he uses an ensemble cast and does so very well.
The characters are a cross-section of individuals with realistic
personalities, idiosyncrasies and sometimes pettiness caused by
ambition. However where he falls short of McBain is in character
development. McBain never assumed readers had read previous books
in the 87th Street series so he, very briefly yet effectively, reintroduced
the characters in each story.
Zafiro chose not to do that so I found it a bit
hard to remember who was whom and what was their past, although
there is an effort to so inform us. There was one character I felt
could have been left out without damaging the story at all, but
that’s just me. We also knew much more about McBain’s
characters personal lives. That is also missing here so it’s
hard to see growth and transition. Because the characters are interesting,
I hope they will develop more with the series.
The story, written on a 24-hour clock through the
duration of the investigation, kept me reading late into the night.
In spite of one large coincidence, there is excellent, gripping
suspense that kept me turning the pages. I want to mention the dialogue
again as that is something I feel is very important. The voice of
each character was distinct and, in some cases, provided light moments
against the darkness of the plot. However, a standout for me was
a conversation which took place between Detectives Tower and Browning
toward the end of the book where they are talking about how even
the most villainous of villains can look like the most ordinary
Had I been Mr. Zafiro’s editor, I’d
have recommended omitting the back-flash section regarding the perpetrator,
much of which I surmised through the story itself and, if necessary,
summarized it as part of 1442 hours. I felt that section disrupted
the pace, and the story would have been a bit tighter without it.
Even with the points I’ve made being a very
picky reader, this is a very good police procedural. I highly recommend
it and am personally delighted to know there are more books in the
series just waiting for me to read them.