Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hit and Miss: Strange Blood

The Take a Chance 3 challenge has several options that use a web page offering to select your book.  Whichbook has the most interesting method -- by selecting your preference along a variety of axis the site finds a book with elements you like.  There are twelve options (happy/sad, safe/disturbing, gentle/violent, and so on) and you can set up to four of them and then ask for the recommendations.  Or you can switch to the other screen and call for a book based on character, plot, or setting options.

I used the form a month or so again and have completely forgotten my selections, although I remember that I had to fiddle with them a bit because my first choices had no matches.  Proof that I'm weird, I suppose.  But finally the all-knowing computer spat out Strange Blood: A Crime Novel (Forensic Psychologist Megan Rhys Crime Novels) by Lindsay Jayne Ashford, so I spoke to my libraries computer and had it sent over.

Strange Blood is the second book about Dr Megan Rhys, a Welsh forensic psychologist called in by the police during violent murders.  Ashford moves around a bit, putting her spotlight on various people, and each time getting intimately inside the character's viewpoint so that I quickly felt I knew them, even as they made mistakes.  The crime fighters have lives outside their jobs; Rhys worries about her new boyfriend, both about his loyalty and whether her family and colleagues will approve; her sister is as important to her as the case, and when those two worries start to collide she reacts instantly.  Occasionally we dip into the killer's mind too, so we know that more badness is coming.

I liked the sense of the detectives and reporters as people, but I found some of the suspense manipulative.  There conflict with the boyfriend seems forced, and I found myself unsympathetic with Rhys's reaction.  Although I liked the individual scenes and found hte characterization skillful, I'm not enough of a crime fan to want to continue, despite the enjoyable loose ends left by the author (I dislike books that magically tie everything up).  Also, the main motivation of the bad guy was that he was crazy, which is a bit weak.

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