Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Fuzzy Navel

Fuzzy Navel
by J.A. Konrath
Recommended Ages: 14+

In the fifth of at least ten novels in the "Jacqueline 'Jack' Daniels Mysteries," the vulnerable, funny, smart, 40-something Chicago police homicide detective shares narrating duties with a bunch of other characters, including the bad guys, in a complex yet completely entertaining experiment in point-of-view. The "complex" part becomes a major ingredient in the suspense that builds and recedes in huge waves as Jack and all the people she cares about find themselves held captive in her secluded, suburban home by a psychopathic killer who has escaped from a home for the criminally insane... and then, just when things seemingly couldn't get any worse, a trio of snipers opens fire on all of them, including the psycho, in a classic case of having one's work follow one home.

The psycho killer is a disfigured femme fatale named Alex, who blames Jack for destroying her life and interrupting her career of evil. Revenge is the only thing that has kept her functionally insane (because "sane" would be too much to hope for), and she intends to take her time making Jack, her mother, her fiance, her ex-cop partner, and a couple other innocent people suffer. She has just gotten started when "The Urban Hunting Club," T.U.H.C. for short, arrives with high-powered rifles and scopes and begins cutting the place up. This outfit is the target of an investigation involving the simultaneous assassination of three sex criminals - followed, at one of the crime scenes, by a bonus round of police officer slayings. Alliances shift, people get hurt, the lights get turned off and on, family secrets come out into view once and for all, and eventually the folks inside the house start bringing the mayhem back to the not-too-swifties outside.

Seriously, these guys aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. Their antics would be funny if they didn't end up dead in a variety of truly gruesome ways. Meantime, Jack discovers the brother she never knew she had. She pushes herself to the limits of physical endurance, again and again. She experiences abject terror, disabling pain, and danger beyond belief. Plus, she's going to have trouble at work when everything settles down. Even up to the gripping end, however, her smart-mouthed narration ensures a stiff shot of belly-laugh humor is in the mix.

This review is based on an audiobook co-narrated by the husband-wife team of Susie Breck and Dick Hill on the Brilliance Audio label. Their voice characterizations made an all-day drive from Fort Wayne, Ind. to somewhere in central Missouri go by like nothing. I'll be looking for them on my next interstate trip, when I stop at a certain truck stop with a large shelf of audiobooks. Another Jack Daniels mystery, bartender, if you please.

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