Crime strikes close to home in Oliver’s (Coyote, 2016, etc.) third series installment featuring the unconventional cowgirl-philosopher-sleuth Jessica James.
Jessica, a Montana-bred young woman, is defying her mother’s advice to “play house with a ‘nice boy,’ grow a garden, can some peaches, and procreate,” and instead pursues graduate studies in Chicago, where she occasionally solves crimes. She’s a fascinating central character, and in her latest adventure, trouble comes looking for her when she accepts a drink at a bar from a handsome stranger while waiting for her friend, stoner medical student Jack Grove. She later wakes up naked, next to a Dumpster in a freezing-cold abandoned lot, with no memory of what happened the previous night. She stumbles to a nearby hospital, where they inform her that she’s recently had cervical surgery. She calls her formidable friend, Lolita Durchenko, and after they leave the hospital, they make their way back to the Dumpster, where they discover a young woman’s dead body—in the same exact spot where Jessica had woken up earlier. That woman is Sara Shaner, a med student and, it turns out, Jack’s most recent lover. Jack informs them of this when he happens to spot them while speeding by in a car, driven by Lolita’s cousin Ivanov; it turns out that they’re fleeing the cops after an adventure of their own. Oliver juggles the many moving parts of her interconnected plots with the same smooth skill and breakneck pacing that characterized previous books in this series. That said, it’s not necessary to read the other installments in sequence, as this volume stands quite well on its own. This book’s many action sequences are unfailingly entertaining, and no matter how dire the circumstances, her characters are always ready with a wisecrack; indeed, even in the emergency room, Jessica has quips at hand. When a former lover of Jack’s asks her whether he still has commitment issues, she says, “If you mean Jackass should be committed, then yes.”
A dark, engaging biomedical mystery with a clever, no-nonsense detective.