Wow. This was a lot of fun to read, and then…well, wow can go both ways.
This is a well crafted murder mystery, with a lot of background, and a lot of twists. And well-done ones, not the ‘oh, look, a twist’ kind we see so often. This book covers some touchy topics in the course of spinning a good detective story.
The basic plot summary is like so: a 15-year-old Iranian girl is viciously attacked by her father for being seen with a boy (not approved of). In running to escape certain death, she undertakes a dangerous journey to a new land with unfamiliar customs, where she must hide the truth from everyone she meets. Twenty years later, amid racial tensions in a Los Angeles hospital (immigrant doctors being the issue, not so much skin color), a female Muslim doctor is violently murdered, sparking a controversial police investigation. The lead investigator, Detective Michael Tucci, finds himself compromising both his job and his life as he embroils himself in an affair with Dr. Tara White, the victim’s associate, who could be the killer’s next target. Suspects include a head doctor who is mentoring on one hand, and supporting the protests on the other, his wife, protestors, and more.
So, there is a lot happening. And most of it is smoothly done.
The characters are nicely fleshed out, and they start from a place where they didn’t need to be, exactly, to work. If you think of Pacific Rim, the characters are total archetypes – the gruff vet, the burned out hero, the novice with mad skills, the cocky sidekick…and that is all you need – there is no other development needed, these are so ingrained in the zeitgeist that we know them without thinking. Our detective, Michael Tucci, could easily have been left at ‘weary veteran cop with a jaded outlook who still has a spark of hope left’, and no more is needed. And to be fair, that is mostly where he stays – but he does have a story, and a depth beyond the archetype. That is a great bit of writing – to go beyond what you must do because it is more satisfying. The characters all get this treatment – there are very human levels to them all, even the victim (who gets very little page time). These added dimensions help make them all more real, and that is something to be encouraged at all times.
But then we hit a snag. The snag is that the book just up and ends. No resolution, no real sequel setup, just an ending. A stopping, rather. And that is really unsatisfying. Especially since the rest of the book is so well crafted and written. I want to say this was a setup for book 2, but honestly it reads more like someone decided this was enough words, and cut it off. There is, I suspect, a chance there will be a sequel that will be as rough at the beginning, since this feels a lot like the book was chopped into pieces to make length. Time will tell.
But that is just the ending – there is a lot of resolution before that point, and this is very worth the read. If you like a good mystery, solid characters, and unexpected plot twists, this is very much the book for you.