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Night Work (Kate Martinelli) Mass Market Paperback – November 28, 2000
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Laurie King's first Kate Martinelli mystery, A Grave Talent, won Best First Novel honors from both the Mystery Writers of America and the British Crime Writers' Association. In this fourth installment in the series, King once again displays her talent as both a prose stylist and a masterful plotter in a case that proves to be personally harrowing for her heroine.
While attending a school play one evening, Detective Martinelli gets what appears to be a routine page about a homicide. The murder victim is James Larsen, an airport baggage handler found in the Presidio, handcuffed, strangled, and with stun-gun burns on his chest. And apparently he had a sweet tooth, given the candies found in his pocket. When it comes out that Larsen was an abusive husband whose wife now lives in a shelter, Martinelli's list of suspects takes a distasteful turn. Could the perpetrator be connected with the Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement, the group of secretive women (or men) who've lately been terrorizing abusers and rapists around the city with their humorous, updated version of the tar-and-feather treatment? Could it be Larsen's wife, a mousy woman who, nonetheless, is clearly harboring some secrets? Could it be Roz Hall, Martinelli's social crusading feminist minister friend? In each case, rage would be justified, but not murder.
When two additional murder victims with similar profiles--and pockets full of candy--surface, the San Francisco media takes an interest in this latest instance of vigilante justice. The investigation is further complicated by Roz's very public interest in the case of a young Indian bride who she believes was murdered. As Martinelli and her partner Al Hawkins try to sort through the mire of emotional entanglements, personal politics, and public scrutiny, King deftly maneuvers her tale through several carefully crafted turns. The novel is also threaded with Hindu spirituality and images of the dark goddess Kali, a vengeful figure perfectly appropriate in a novel about victimized women striking back. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
The multitalented King (O Jerusalem, etc.) has not published a Kate Martinelli novel since 1996's With Child, so fans aplenty have been waiting for the next installment in this acclaimed series. San Francisco police detective Kate and her partner, Al Hawken, first introduced in the Edgar-winning A Grave Talent, have been called in to investigate the murder of a man who turns out to have a long record of beating up his wife. The wife, who took refuge at a battered women's shelter, has a rock-solid alibi and there are no other obvious suspects. Meanwhile, a group of feminist vigilantes called the Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement has been exacting wickedly funny acts of minor revenge against men who physically abuse women. Kate has a sneaking sympathy for the work of the Ladies, but when more bodies of abusive men start turning up, it looks as though someone--some woman--in San Francisco has taken the ultimate step in vengeance. King brings her theme of women's rage against abusive men together with a focus on goddess worship, especially in Indian religions. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction and creation, figures largely in this dense and suspenseful tale. As in her powerful thriller A Darker Place, King's ability to turn esoteric religious concepts into key narrative points makes this a highly unusual--and memorable--novel. It suffers a bit from talkiness, but even so, it's a compelling, effective piece of writing. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
For those of you still with me, this mystery returns to the police procedural style of the first two Kate books: A Grave Talent and To Play the Fool. Yes, Lee and all of Kate's friends are still around, and some of them even get a lot of page time. However, this book doesn't have pages and pages of personal angst like With Child.
The mystery itself is wonderful and all the clues are given along the way. As the publisher provided summary suggests, this book focuses on political anti-violence against women activities and cyber hit lists. Very contemporary. Very detailed.
Kate's private life also gets some attention so all the lose ends from With Child are tied together.
Overall, this was a wonderfully fulfilling book. Don't plan on reading it in small chunks. You'll want to read straight through to the end.
Night Work did not disappoint me at all. I am able to say to all Laurie King fans; "It's a good 'un from beginning to end!" And let's face it, she's one of the best writers of mystery novels ever. This new book is as excellently written as all her others, which is high praise indeed. King takes us deeper into the lives of Kate, her partner Lee, her work partner Al, their friends and family, and other interesting people along the way. These people interact believably, their characters become clearer to us, and some of them grow personally in ways that we can relate to and learn from.
For me a good novel is a good novel, and the genre chosen as its setting is largely irrelevant. I like books that interest, excite, and move me; as well as making me think about the important issues in life, both those which transcend the particular and those especially important to our lives today. Laurie King's books meet all my criteria for a good novel - actually, a very good novel, indeed - and I look forward to many more from her.
I have read all the books in both series, and this one does not fall short in any way. "Night Work" is exciting, emotionally involving, and intellectually stimulating. What more can you ask from a novel? With "Night Work", Laurie King retains her place on my top shelf of thriller writers alongside Elmore Leonard and Robert Parker. Reservations? Just a couple of minor ones. I did feel that outside of the inner circle of both Kate's partners and their households, the characters were not as vivid as in the earlier novels in this series. People like the Mehta family and Roz Hall were not given much space for development. And the ending was a bit pat for me as well. As with "A Darker Place", (published immediately prior to "Night Work"), I felt that the middle was more exciting than the end.
But Laurie King is such an overachiever. Not many writers would be able to produce two such different series, and she shows no sign yet of falling below her own high standards.
What I like about this series is nothing is given away freely. Kate and Al uncover one clue at a time, and sometimes not in time. This is what I imagine police work really is like. One thing I noticed is the vast amounts of coffee everyone consumes. My stomach aches just to think about it. And Night Work certainly did set off my craving for Indian food. In talking with others, some one suggested this was Ms. King's last Kate and Al book. I hope not, I really hope not.
The prose is sparer, less elegant, than I remember in her previous books, and King indulges her passion in Old Testament theology to the point of tedium (and I consider myself a pretty big fan of the Old Testament).
King's creative genius and sense of fun is still there: the militant Ladies' terrorist acts made me laugh. But by the end of the book, I didn't particularly care who the murderer was.
With all this complaining, will I buy the next King book? Probably. She's the most interesting mystery/suspense writer out there right now. I'd like to see more depth and craft in the next book in the series.