G. P. Putnam
06/23/2015/ ISBN 9780399171185
Suspense / Private Investigator / Boston
by Elise Cooper
| Brutality by Ingrid Thoft
is a captivating crime novel. Besides the mystery of a “who
done it murder,” the author raises questions about sports
brain injuries. This plot explores the theoretical and practical,
the balance between loving the sport, in this case, soccer,
and the compelling evidence of the dangers involved in playing
The story has soccer mom Liz Barone attacked in her kitchen,
where she eventually dies from her injuries. Private investigator
Fina Ludlow is hired by Liz’s mother to find the attacker.
Through her investigation Ludlow finds out that Liz is suing
her alma mater for a mild cognitive impairment head injury incurred
while she was a player for New England University. Carl Ludlow,
Fina’s father, decides to take the civil case as Fina
tries to narrow the list of suspects: Liz’s research boss,
her husband who has a hidden secret, other members of the soccer
team, and a sleezy booster. In addition to the mystery the family
plot line continues with her abusive older brother, a niece
wondering about her actual family, and Fina’s relationship
with her police friend.
The author writes what interests her. “I remember reading
accounts of NFL football players suffering from cognitive impairment
and other brain issues. I changed it from football to soccer.
People assume its only in football and hockey but in reality
the lower contact sports have a high incidence of concussions.
Also, people historically think that girls do not play as hard
as men so they don’t suffer from these injuries. I see
it as involving the intersection of money, entertainment, identity,
and what it means to be macho in our culture. I thought it had
many interesting facets, making it porous on many levels.”
Fina is a great character that is independent, sarcastically
humorous, tough, tenacious, and quick thinking. The only daughter
in a family of three sons, and the only one not to attend law
school, she stands out in the family dynamics. Her parents are
dysfunctional, the mother more than the father.
Thoft came up with the idea for the character while attending
a course at the University of Washington. “I learned that
defense attorneys, insurance companies, and some citizens use
them. The two women who taught the class were investigators,
one civil and the other criminal. It gave a terrific overview.
We reviewed police reports and had a whole range of guest speakers.
I also made contact with some in the Seattle Police Department
since it is not unusual for a retired police officer to become
a PI. They let me do a ride along. It was really interesting
since there were a huge variety of calls: a possible bank robbery,
a detox, and someone who threw a hamburger at someone else.
It gave me a real appreciation for the work a patrol officer
must do. They are social workers, mediators, and have to work
with a varied and difficult population. I saw the other side
of the police that is rarely seen on the news today.”
The author is excited that ABC is teaming up with producer Mark
Gordon to adapt the first two books into a TV series. The pilot
is possibly being filmed this fall season, about a family drama
set around the Ludlow family business, a high-powered personal
injury law firm.
Brutality balances real-life themes with an exciting
story. The protagonist is a well-developed character whose dry
narration enhances the action. The sub-plot regarding the complex
family dynamics is very well written.