Penn Valley Phoenix

Reviewed by Andy Smart

In this, the second Tru North book, McClellan has produced an enjoyable and well-written novel. Set in Kansas city and the dusty plains of Texas, the plot revolves around the murder of wealthy restauranteur Sandra Vandamier. As the investigation procedes North finds out that Vandamier is a woman who has no existence before her arrival in Kansas, and sets out to find out if her murder is connected to something or somebody from her past. There is an on-going side plot revovling around the fact that Vandamier is a lesbian and the other officers' homophobia surfaces as a result of this - North is not out in the dept.

It is perhaps fair to say that this in primarily a whydunnit rather than a whodunnit. While we the identity of the murderer is not obvious from the start and that there is a definite denoument when North (and us) find out the culprit, this is not the revalation which makes it enjoyable. What makes this book so readable is McClellan's wonderful ability to create a sense of place and to draw believable characters. While these characters do conform to some of the stock figures from detective fiction: the good but cynical cop, the politically obsessed senior officer, the incomptent ass-kissing promotion-ladder climber, the crusty pathologist (female), etc; they are none the worse for that.

The romantic element is handled well, and you really want North and Markie to make it as a couple. However McClellan keeps just enough tension in the relationship to keep you wondering if, in a future novel, they have a major split (I for one hope they don't as I reckon they are made for each other and I'm an old romantic at heart). There is some sex, which is well done (in the writing sense....... though the characters appear to enjoy it) and does not detract from the plot; one is not distracted from a vital clue by a swift and gratuitous bit of groping.

All in all this is a book worth reading; buy it.

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