More than ten years ago, Matty Madrid had been involved with a guy named Mingo Minguez with whom she had a child. When their daughter, Espe...moreRATING: 3.5
More than ten years ago, Matty Madrid had been involved with a guy named Mingo Minguez with whom she had a child. When their daughter, Esperanza, had an accident, Mingo was out of there. He's since been incarcerated at the Penitentiary of New Mexico. Matty doesn't know why she does it, but she visits him every few weeks. During one of those visits, Mingo asks for her help in finding the killer of a fellow inmate named Isaac "Gordo" Gonzales.
Gordo had been lifting weights in the gym when he died. The death is suspicious because of the nature of the injury and the fact that there were no corrections officers in the area at the time, although the officials have labeled it an accident. It appears that there's an elaborate cover-up going on, but it's not apparent for what reason. Mingo is pretty sure who did it, a guy named Foster, who may have been Gordo's rival in love for one of the other inmates. But he can't understand why Warden Harley Jenks hasn't put the guy away. The plot thickens as the examiner who wrote up an honest death report showing that a murder occurred is killed, and the report, which Matty has obtained on the sly, disappears.
Matty is a private investigator who has several situations added to her caseload in addition to the Gordo crime. She's not wild about taking on the case because it doesn't look like she'll get paid anything but does it anyway because Mingo's life has been threatened. The lawyer she asks to assist her with Gordo asks her to find her deadbeat third husband who owes her money, a comic named Herbie Koren. Koren's talent agent asks her to find a dog that was stolen by his ex-wife. Such is life for a big time investigator.
In addition to the actual crime events, Grady builds a strong sense of the life of a single Hispanic woman with an overload of responsibilities. In addition to her professional life, Matty cares for her grandmother, who is delusional with Alzheimer's, and her daughter, who is basically catatonic. There's a nice sense of the Hispanic influences from Matty's own background as well as the community in which she lives. There was quite a bit of Spanish interspersed into the dialog. Although that added a lot of flavor to the narrative, I found it confusing because I didn't understand everything that was being said. At times it was also difficult to comprehend what was being said by the inmates in the prison, as Grady reproduced their street slang phonetically. However, the dialog was very realistic and seemed true to each speaker.
There's a lot going on in this book, and Grady generally keeps events under control with a few exceptions. I got a little bit lost, as there was quite a parade of characters introduced throughout the book. There was a bit too much reliance on a device where Matty fortuitously ran into somebody who knew somebody that knew something; but on the whole, Grady did a credible job with plot, character and setting.
Matty is a likeable character, no-nonsense and very down to earth. She has a tendency to deny her own needs, with her wasting her time visiting Mingo instead of building new relationships even though there are others who are clearly interested. The book had a little different twist than the typical PI novel in that Matty may have gotten a few of the events in motion but wasn't ultimately responsible for the resolution of most of the situations. In fact, she is off stage quite a bit of the time which is unusual for a lead character. However, I liked Matty and look forward to meeting her again.
When Georgia Barnett is sent to cover a story about rival gangs and a double murder in a poor community on the south side of Chicago, she doesn't know...moreWhen Georgia Barnett is sent to cover a story about rival gangs and a double murder in a poor community on the south side of Chicago, she doesn't know that she's about to become engaged in something a lot bigger than a new story to report on the TV news. Soon she's on the scene reporting an incident in which five people were hit, possibly in retaliation for the first group of murders. Garland brings us right into Georgia's mind as she cases the scene to prepare for how she'll report it on TV. She shows us how she picks who to interview, the kind of camera shots that she wants and just how she approaches the presentation of news to the masses.
Georgia has fought hard to overcome the fact that she is an African American in a white world. She knows that her employers have their priorities misplaced when they want her to cover the disappearance of a young white boy and ignore that of a poor 6-year-old black girl. In any event, their main concern seems to be if her make-up is in place and her hair under control rather than if the story is any good. She's determined to give the young girl her due. With some misrepresentation to her bosses, she manages to investigate what has happened to Kelly "Butter" Johnson. Georgia determines that Butter might have seen the shooter in the first group of murders and therefore have been taken to prevent her testifying as a witness. A truckload of guilt ensues when she realizes that she showed Butter in the background during the initial TV interview, which placed her in her present danger. Georgia does an incredible job of working with the family and the ghetto community to try to get Butter back.
During the course of events, Georgia runs into a detective named Doug Eckart who makes the blood in her veins flow a lot faster. Garland does a good job of showing the attraction between the two characters without falling into a lot of clichés. They clash with one another as they see the case from their different viewpoints of cop and reporter. There are other characters in the book who are well developed and instrumental to moving the plot along.
Garland does an awesome job of creating dialog, both of the professional black person and the neighborhood gang members. She also was very effective at delineating the job of a TV reporter. It was heartwarming to see Georgia overcome the obstacles placed before her because of her race and to use the TV medium to secure the release of an innocent child. Garland dealt with the issues revolving around gangs and race without getting heavyhanded or preachy. Overall, I found this to be an excellent book, one which I highly recommend. I particularly liked the lead character of Georgia Barnett and hope that this auspicious debut will lead to a long-running series. "Ardella Garland" is a pseudonym of author Yolanda Joe.
Viv Powers is a reporter for the local paper who has been living with Charley Pack, a rock musician, for the past 8 years. They've put down roots in T...moreViv Powers is a reporter for the local paper who has been living with Charley Pack, a rock musician, for the past 8 years. They've put down roots in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Needless to say, Viv is speechless when Charley is arrested for the murder of his producer, Gil Martin, who also happens to be his ex-wife's husband and his daughter's stepfather. Viv can't imagine that he is capable of such an act of violence. But anything is possible if it had to do with Charley's daughter, Heather. It's very difficult to figure out what happened, as Charley is not talking to anyone.
Viv is determined to find out the truth. Curiously, she never really expresses any love for Charley, her main concern being about being able to stay in the house that is in his name even if he is convicted of the crime. This distanced the reader from Charley, in that one of the most significant people in his life didn't seem strongly connected to him emotionally. Understanding the character of Viv is further complicated by her initial willingness to frame somebody for the crime in order to free Charley.
A connected story intersects the main narrative. Tommy Hoffing has recently escaped from the prison psychiatric facility in Tulsa. Originally, he was convicted of the brutal murder of James and Sylvia Blackinwater. Now there' s another series of crimes occurring that seem to bear his signature. Could he have been the killer of Martin?
Albright writes beautifully; but in this case, a positive becomes a negative. She creates lush descriptive passages that are poetic in their lyricism. However, these passages are constantly interjected into the narrative, which slows down the pace. For example, as she drives to Tulsa to visit Charley to resolve issues, there are these beautiful descriptions of the setting when the author should be building tension about the events of the story.
The conclusion of the book is well done. There are many threads that need to be resolved, and they are without a lot of unnecessary explication. The reader is never 100% certain about who is guilty and who is innocent and what will become of Viv and Charley. Albright has created an interesting lead character, one who is somewhat flawed and not entirely sympathetic, but one that I want to follow into what is hopefully a series.