Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dirty Martini

Dirty Martini
by J.A. Konrath
Recommended Ages: 14+

Jack Daniels is a Chicago homicide detective. Her full name, for of course Jack is she, is Jacqueline; she got the Daniels bit from her ex-husband. Now a lieutenant with more than 20 years of experience, she's not as loose a cannon as you would expect of a Chicago cop with an alcoholic beverage for a name, especially one starring in a series of novels each named after a different adult beverage. (This is the fourth of at least ten books in the "Jack Daniels" mystery series.) She's just a smart cop who, more or less by chance, gets caught up in some scary cases, if this installment is any indication. She solves them with smart detective work; she survives sequences charged with unbelievable levels of suspense, while exhibiting the appropriate level of fear - including, once or twice, debilitating panic; and she narrates her adventures with a cool sense of humor. She is vulnerable, human, devoted to her mom and her accountant boyfriend (fiance?), loyal to her partner, street smart, and laugh-out-loud funny. And for some reason, this seems to make killers want to kill her.

The killer in this tale is a psychopath who uses an array of poisons as his method of committing mass murder. He calls himself the Chemist, sends notes to the police, and carries out a campaign of terror, starting by contaminating several delis and supermarkets with botulism toxin. He's supposedly doing it to extort $2 million out of the city, but Jack seems to be the only cop unconvinced that paying him off will stop the mayhem. Even while the city scrambles to comply with the Chemist's demands, he strikes closer and closer to home, at one point spraying a deadly toxin in Jack's face right inside the precinct. You haven't experienced suspense until you've been in Jack's shoes, holding your breath, trying to reach the nearest bathroom with your eyes closed before your Oxygen runs out or the stuff on your skin causes irreversible damage.

In separate attacks, the Chemist also strikes at Jack's partner and her fiance(??). He lays a fiendish trap that kills several cops, and from which Jack barely makes it out alive. He also arranges for Jack to deliver the ransom money in a way that guarantees he will get the money without being caught, while Jack will get her rear end kicked during a frantic dash across Chicago. But even after being paid, naturally, the killer's targets keep getting bigger, leading to an explosive climax and an equally exciting, excruciatingly personal confrontation between Jack and the dirtbag behind it all.

This review is based on the audiobook co-narrated by the self-directed, husband-wife team of Susie Breck and Dick Hill, on the Brilliance Audio label. I listened to it while driving from Kingdom City, Mo. to Fort Wayne, Ind., and it was really the ideal entertainment: full of laughs, generously sprinkled with passages of exquisite terror, and teeming with well-drawn characters brought convincingly to life by two actors who, at times, sounded like a full studio cast. The edition I bought concludes with an entertaining interview between Breck, Hill, and Konrath.

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