Review: PD Martin – Kiss of Death

Reviews

I had heard a lot about Australian crime writer PD Martin, who writes a series featuring FBI profiler Sophie Anderson, but her books are difficult to get hold of in the UK. However, I thought it was time I read another book as part of the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge and I was kindly sent a copy of Kiss of Death by Bernadette at Reactions to Reading.

The opening scene features the vision/dream, experienced by FBI profiler Sophie Anderson, of a girl being pursued at night. This sets the tone for the book and introduces to new readers (like me) the fact that Sophie is not only a profiler but a psychic who intermittently experiences visions of events around her investigations. In Kiss of Death, she has just seen the death of a girl who is found in an LA park with two puncture marks on her neck. Investigators soon link the killing to one of the vampiric cults operating in LA, somewhat prosaically named ‘After Dark’ and led by the charismatic Anton Ward. But Sophie’s investigations are hampered by the attraction she feels towards the leader and his possible recognition of her psychic gifts.

Sophie adopts the persona of a vampire follower to infiltrate the group, which causes problems in her relationship with her boyfriend Dan and also begins to blur the boundaries between professional and personal relationships.

My heart initially sank when I realised this book was written on the subject of vampires as this isn’t an area I’m the slightest bit interested in. The book didn’t particularly have anything new to say about the whole vampire genre and I kept expecting the vampire angle to be a red herring in the investigation and the true motive for the murders would be revealed. But vampirism was at the heart of the book and the author seemed keen for the reader to treat the vampire cult as a serious proposition. I think it would have helped if she’d written in a character who strongly disbelieved in the whole notion of vampires to balance out Sophie’s apparent credulity. As the narrative developed, however, the focus shifted to the cult-like nature of the group which was very interesting and widened the scope of the book.

The psychic aspect of Sophie was portrayed very well and I thought this was the better part of the book. The FBI profiler bit was a little superficial for my liking although the infiltration of the group worked well in the plot. It was a fun book to read, with some enjoyable scenes showing snapshots of LA from an outsider’s point of view (Sophie is Australian). I think if the subject matter hadn’t been vampires I would have enjoyed it a lot more, so I am keen to read other books in the series.

Another review of the book can be found at Fair Dinkum Crime,

I read this book as part of the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge.

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Review: Y A Erskine – The Brotherhood

Reviews

Tasmania is a region I know little about but which conjures up images of beautiful scenery in a temperate climate. The Brotherhood written by Y A Erskine, a former Tasmanian police officer, provides an alternative view of the island. In this excellent book, racial tensions and stresses of police work combine to provide a snapshot of the realities of law enforcement on the island.

The plot opens with the murder of Sergeant John White, a policeman in the city of Hobart, who has a reputation for honesty and integrity. His killing takes place during a burglary in which he is being accompanied by a rookie cop whose narrative sets out the context of the killing. A suspect is soon identified which opens up a political nightmare for the police hierarchy. He is a boy from an Aboriginal family who are ‘known to the police’. Tensions clearly run high between the law enforcers and the Aborigine community and the narrative moves to the Commissioner of Police who clearly fears that the situation could escalate existing stresses. The chapters then tell the story from the perspective of various people involved in the investigation and those who were close to the dead man, including a local journalist, a lawyer called in to defend the suspect and Sergeant White’s wife and ex-girlfriend.

Gradually the personality of the policeman is revealed and his squeaky clean reputation comes under scrutiny along with the cynical manipulation of laws introduced to protect the Aborigine population. This cynicism is reflected in the style of the writing which is honest and brutal with strong expletives meted out by police and criminals alike. The shifting narrative worked very well I thought and brought out the humanity not only of suspect and victim but also of people on the periphery of the investigation. This wasn’t so much a whodunnit but a “whydunnit” and I thought it a very accomplished debut novel.

I read this book as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge.

Other (very positive) reviews of the book can be found at Fair Dinkum Crime, Petrona and Aust Crime Fiction.