Following DOUBLE HOMICIDE – Jonathan and Faye Kellerman’s 2004 murder-mystery two-in-one set in the cities of Boston and Santa Fe – the married bestselling authors collaborate once more with CAPITAL CRIMES, whose pair of novellas this time take place in Berkeley and Nashville. Is it the couple’s intent to eventually have the whole country covered, like a literary cousin to Sufjan Stevens’ states-as-CDs project? If so, I will follow.
The first, longest and best of the two procedurals is the inappropriately titled “My Sister’s Keeper,” in which a feisty, dedicated female California state rep is found dead in her office, practically decapitated by a shotgun blast. The detectives who investigate wonder if her politics — whether public (she was a proponent of stem-cell research) or private (she was a lesbian) – have anything to do with the young woman’s demise. Following a trail whose clues include an STD and more than one right-wing nutjob, they have their answer. And then, just when we think it’s all said and done, the Kellermans throw in an extra delicious twist.
As with “Keeper” (as well as HOMICIDE’s stories), a new pair of detectives star in CAPITAL’s second half, “Music City Breakdown.” In it, a corpulent, has-been folk-rock star – seemingly reminiscent of David Crosby – in town for a concert turns up murdered on the streets. Their leg work uncovers a litany of suspects, many of them with dreams – flourishing, broken or otherwise – of making it big.
The individual cities aren’t just here for show; each story utilizes landmarks and other surroundings that illustrate the setting’s deliberateness. In “Breakdown,” this works toward the novella’s detriment. At least in my case; as someone who loathes country music, their decision of Nashville as a backdrop put me off of that half of the book.
It’s strictly a personal thing – similar cultural prejudice kept me from enjoying Jay Bonansinga’s New Orleans-flavored TWISTED to full effect – but one that’s not is my aversion to Team Kellerman’s cameos from their series characters. Because we know they’re not about to jeopardize their bread-and-butter franchises, there’s no point in including them, other than as a stunt.
However, such stunts can’t damage the Kellermans’ solid storytelling, and “My Sister’s Keeper” is an especially fine mystery. May they continue to join forces for several map points to come. –Rod Lott