Past Imperfect by Margaret Maron
was published in 1991, about 10 years after the first Sigrid Harald book, One Coffee With
, and is stylistically different from the first book.
Maron uses a shifting viewpoint which is distracting. Sigrid's point of view, taking place in one police precinct and in Sigrid's world, is told in the third person. Vaughn's story, taking place in another precinct, is told in the first person. Perhaps Maron intends to begin a series featuring Vaughn.
Another difference is that the city plays a more important role in this book and that is almost distracting. Maron has some fairly long passages about the city of New York, for instance the passage about Times Square. Its really beautifully written and evocative but really doesn't have anything to add to the story because very little of the story takes place in Times Square. It was as if the passage about Times Square something Maron wrote for something else and liked. Rather than let it go she stuck it in this book.
The small neighborhoods where the cops lived play a much larger role and needed more emphasis. For instance, the feel of Cruett's neighborhood, and the walk from the Shamrock Bar to the bridge were important to the plot, yet underplayed.
As stated previously, Past Imperfect
was published 10 years after the first in the series, although the story seems to take place only a few years later. Sigrid doesn't appear to have grown much as a person during that time but she does seem to be trying to reach out past her comfort zone and discover who she really is. The use of a color consultation as a bonding experience with her mother and as a trigger for Sigrid to begin acknowledging herself as a beautiful woman is contrived, however. And perhaps because Sigrid's story is told in the third person its a little harder to get grip on what's going on in Sigrid's mind sometimes.
This is a murder mystery concerning the police department itself and has the promise of an interesting plot tied into Sigrid's past. The murdered man was an unlikable police detective and his murder just sort of happened. The second murder, of a popular police administrative aide, was given a lot of emphasis. The PAA's life, thoughts, and last hours were the focus of several chapters. And the last death came as a surprise and was completely unnecessary to the plot.
The ending was disappointing. This was a book that the whole way through promised something more. One kept reading thinking that at the end "something more" would appear. That didn't happen. Though the murders were solved, the loose ends just kept flapping in the wind. An unsatisfactory read all the way around