Deaver, Jeffery. Solitude Creek.

NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2015.

I’ve never been a big fan of Deaver’s books, but this one got strong reviews so I gave it a shot. The protagonist is Kathryn Dance, an investigator and body-language expert for the California Bureau of Investigation, based in Monterey, who is involved in an operation to identify and shut down the commerce between Mexico, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area in drugs and especially in illegal assault weapons. But she screws up and mishandles a supposed witness brought in for an interview who turns out to be a hit man for one of the gangs.

Shifted back to the Civil Division as punishment (and with her sidearm confiscated), she goes to check out a deadly roadhouse fire — except there was no fire, all the victims having been killed or injured in the stampede by customers to escape via the blocked exits. Before long, she knows the incident was deliberately planned and carried out, and she’s going to find whodunit. And then Deaver takes us inside the mind of the perp, Antioch March, an extremely warped individual, as he lines up a few more such “events” for his apparent amusement. (“What delicious chaos,” he thinks.)

Agent Dance also has a complicated personal life, her husband having apparently died a few books ago in this continuing series. She’s close to a Monterey County deputy sheriff, and also to a crack coder from Silicon Valley, and can’t figure out who to pick — if either of them. And her twelve-year-old son, previously a good kid and excellent student, may be hanging out with the wrong people these days. And her nine-year-old daughter, a talented musician, has mysterious fears about the upcoming school talent show. All of which are extraneous to the two main plots, but I suppose personal problems are mandatory these days in marketing a cops-and-robbers thriller.

It’s not a bad book — although the denouement is based on rather unlikely premises. In fact, the plot tends to strain credibility at numerous points, with Kathryn getting far too many lucky breaks. And the author tends to preciousness when he writes from Dance’s POV. I may go back and check on some earlier adventures in this series, though.


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