Libery Square

Reviewed by Andy Smart

This is the first Kate Delafield mystery I've read, but it won't be the last. Ms Forrest has taken all of the standard ingredients of the classic whodunit, and added a 'cop with a past' element to them, which makes for a really good read. Furthermore, like any good whodunit it keeps you guessing - as always with these reviews I will give you no clues as to the killer's identity, however I can reveal that I didn't work it out before the end.

The plot revolves around police detective Kate Delafield's first attendance at a re-union of the people with who she served in Vietnam (much against her will and due to the connivance of her partner Aimee). Needless to say there is a murder in their midst and Delafield becomes involved in attempting to solve the case. Forrest avoids the cliché of 'visiting cop out of jurisdiction at odds with local law enforcement, the novel is set in Washington DC and she's a California cop, and instead has her using her inside knowledge to help them out. The local cops by the way are great fun, watch out for the detective duo and the rather attractive uniformed officer!

As a British reader I found that the amount of Vietnam background in the book was something of a problem for me, we of course do not have the Vietnam war as a defining historical experience and cannot truly understand what involvement in it did to the millions of Americans who fought there. Forrest does a good job of filling in the background facts for her readers, though the vehicle of having to have them explained to Kate's partner Aimee who is too young to remember them. But this doesn't fill in the psychological background for readers in Britain, in the way I suspect it does for Americans. Perhaps if I had not been concentrating on keeping my Khe Sahns and my Dien Bin Phus clear in my head then perhaps I might have been concentrating harder on the clues.....

The book is not however a 'Vietnam' novel, Vietnam mearly serves to provide the reason for brining the characters together, in the same way Christie stuck her characters on the Orient Express and numerous cops have solved killings in hotels. What Forrest does do is use the Vietnam background to investigate Kate Delafield's mind and motivations, and to create a bit of tension between her and her partner Aimee (it will not detract from the novel for me to reveal to those like me who love a happy ending that they are still together and happy at the end!).

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