“A Grave Talent” by Laurie R. King
Synopsis: This gripping debut of the Kate Martinelli mystery series won the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery, generating wide critical acclaim and moving Laurie R.King into the upper tier of the genre. As “A Grave Talent” begins, the unthinkable has happened in a small community outside of San Francisco. A string of shocking murders has occurred, each victim an innocent child. For Detective Kate Martinelli, just promoted to Homicide and paired with a seasoned cop who’s less than thrilled to be handed a green partner, it’s going to be difficult case. Then the detectives receive what appears to be a case-breaking lead: it seems that one of the residents of this odd, close-knit colony is Vaun Adams, arguably the century’s greatest painter of women, a man, as it turns out, with a sinister secret. For behind the brushes and canvases also stands a notorious felon once convicted of strangling a little girl. What really happened on that day of savage violence eighteen years ago? To bring a murderer to justice, Kate must delve into the artist’s dark past — even if she knows it means losing everything she holds dear.
2 out of 5 stars
I didn’t like this very much at all.
To be honest, I’m not sure why I finished this book. I felt like I HAD to for some reason, as it features a lesbian main character. I felt that I needed to read something written about one of my people, you know?
Let’s begin with what I did like: The premise. It had a lot of promise. There is a serial killer of children outside of San Francisco and all leads seem to point to a reclusive painter that lives in an off the beaten path colony. The painter was convicted and served time for the killing of a child in her care and has since removed herself from society.
The two detectives assigned to the case are an older cop, with years of experience and a newly minted rookie detective with fresh eyes. That’s Martinelli. And, that’s it.
Now, the list of what I didn’t like: The language read as European to me. I kept getting confused and forgetting that the story was set in California as it didn’t read that way at all. The phrasing was off, or maybe just extremely condescending.
The story meandered for a while in the middle, which is one of the worst sins a writer can commit in my opinion. I need that hook in the beginning to grab me right away but then you have to keep my interest. I ended up reading another book in the middle of this one (which will not be reviewed here as it’s extremely taboo) just to break the tedium.
Lastly, the attitudes of the characters. Martinelli is an EXTREMELY closeted lesbian. I mean extreme to the point that her work friends know her as Casey and her real life friends know her as Kate. And never the two shall meet. It’s odd. Even though the book is set in 1992, it’s also set in San Francisco. Kind of a LGBTQIA mecca, especially during the 90s. Martinelli says something to the effect of that she doesn’t want to be the representative of the Leather Dyke Brigade for the police force – I probably have the exact phrase wrong but it was odd to read a lesbian character who displayed such homophobia.
Also, there was one therapist who was just a creep. We found him in bed with his client, just sleeping, as part of the therapy and no one found anything wrong with that. Nope. So much no.
I finished it. That’s really all I can say about this book other than my overwhelming disappointment.
Cover – it’s a bridge. Seriously?