Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Very Public Eye, by Lori L. Lake ($18.95)

Although Lori L. Lake lives in Oregon now, her series is set in Minnesota where she used to live. Reading her book set during a cold, cold winter made me feel downright cozy in 44-degree Portland. Lori is great at setting the scene, so her descriptions of driving on icy and snowy streets and, in particular, an attempted murder by car, with a little help from a snowbank, made me shiver and reach for the ice scraper.

This is Lori's second Leona "Leo" Reese book, and it is filled with wonderful writing, humor, and thoughtful moments.

Leo was once a St. Paul police sergeant. Unfortunately, she could not qualify on the shooting range and was subsequently moved to the Human Services Investigative Unit to look into complaints in care facilities, including, in this case, a chemical dependency unit. Because she had ticked off a higher-up in St. Paul, she has been exiled to Duluth. And this is where our story opens.

It wasn't just a common vision problem that sidelined Leo. She had cancer and her affected eye has been removed. The most moving part of the story is about Leo's attempt to reconcile herself to her new situation. We see her go through denial, anger, embarrassment, and self-pity. Finally, however, she reaches outside her own woes to focus on the job at hand. How could you not root for her?

A 17-year-old boy in the dependency clinic has been murdered by a particularly vitriolic method. Then a disappearance and another murder occur. Leo is joined by police detectives, her HR compatriot -- wheelchair-bound, wisecracking Thom Thoreson -- and other investigators sent from St. Paul HR. At all stages, on the other hand, her attempts to investigate are thwarted by a loathsome and incompetent administrator. He's definitely someone you will love to hate.

What elevates Lori's writing is her ability to add human and realistic touches to her story. You'll know immediately what I mean when you get to one of the last scenes in the book. It wasn't really necessary to advance the story, but it was necessary to show kindness and a loving heart contrasted with a duplicitous, heartless, and psychopathic nature.

A Very Public Eye had all the elements that make a story engaging, and this one is highly recommended.

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