Poisonings rock Rochester, N.Y., and bungled evidence threatens to set a killer free in Arnold’s (Frigid Deceit, 2012) second thriller featuring detectives Louis Baker and Robert Hicks.
Louis and her partner, Hicks, are investigating a case of bodies found with “high fevers,” and drugs as a potential murderous weapon has them paying special attention to an apparent survivor: Charles Mahoney, a pharmaceutical manufacturer whose wife has died. Louis’ friend Assistant District Attorney Kristine Rocha, meanwhile, tries to keep a rapist/murderer behind bars while coming to terms with her sister Kelly’s car accident and the possibility that she may have to care for Kelly’s 10-year-old son, Bryan. Arnold’s novel is two distinct stories in one: the detectives’ investigation and Kristine’s re-examination of a case in her new role, at least temporarily, as mother to her nephew. The stories sometimes coalesce, though most connections are superficial, as when Bryan is looked after by Louis’ and Kristine’s friend Cece and Louis’ co-worker Aria. But the author scores on both counts: the murder plot deepens as the story progresses, adding adultery and art forgery to the mix; and though Kristine’s searching for solid evidence to cover some botched DNA results is less intriguing, her family life is dramatically engaging, particularly her strained relationship with her overbearing mother. Louis and Hicks are resounding lead characters who complement one another; neither is noticeably smarter or more observant than the other, and their frequent lighthearted banter never seems insensitive, even when they both mock an insurance adjuster while standing in proximity to a dead body. References to earlier cases or incidents, such as Hicks’ joking about Louis’ alleged infatuation with an accountant from a prior collaboration, fortunately don’t saddle the plot with unnecessary back story for unrelated events, although exposition might have helped on occasion. For instance, Louis’ shoulder constantly aches, and she even “screams in pain” at a nightclub before it’s explained much later that she was injured in the line of duty. Though the investigation boasts plenty of suspense, Kristine also endures some intense moments—as when her GPS directs her the wrong way—and, not to be outdone, Louis shares in the drama with her troubled marriage.
Covers the bases of a murder mystery, but the characters and relationships are what stand out.