Friday, January 18, 2013

Review: No Evidence of a Crime

Kathleen Jackson has drifted from one city to the next, working on her education and trying to figure out where she belongs. Jim Jarrod dedicated his life to the DC police force, but after the strange circumstances of the death of his wife and partner in a car accident that left everyone in the department whispering and wondering, Jim is struggling to move on. So when Jim and Kathleen are made partners and stuck right in the middle of a high profile murder, working together to solve a crime that sees too nicely packaged gets off to a rocky start. The case only gets more complicated when evidence is discovered to have been tampered with and trying to figure it out may end up costing lives. 

The characters and the mystery itself were both well written. The characters, Jim and Kathleen, were complex, real characters that readers can care about and relate to. Both are struggling with personal issues, which effects their ability to work as partners. Their relationship changes throughout the book from awkward teacher and student, to one of respect, and eventually to real friendship. The progression of their relationship was very natural, and I found it was one of the more compelling aspects of the book. 

The only issue I had with the character development was with Kathleen and extremely unobservant nature. Now, there was a purpose for this, so I understand Vondrak's reasoning, but it could have been done more subtly. There were times when Kathleen came off as completely oblivious, where she could have been shown to be unsure instead and had to rely on Jim to figure something out. This way she would have still seemed competent, but not as good it reading people as Jim. 

As far as the mystery went, I enjoyed the main storyline. For the most part, I thought the book was well-paced and the readers were given enough information to keep them interested without making it too obvious. The only exception to this was the killer. I thought the killer's identity was pretty obvious from the first time he appeared in the book. However, his reason for the killing and the power behind it was a good twist, so I wasn't too bothered by figuring out who the killer was early on. Their was a lot of other mystery behind just who killed Victoria Young. 

Overall, I liked the story and the characters, and I enjoyed reading. However, I did have a few issues that keeps me from giving it a top rating. 

The initial pacing of the book was a bit slow. There were long sections of internal thought and dialog that slowed things down, and the amount and length of the explanations were a bit tiring at times. Vondrak tried to explain to readers about the processes of collecting and processing evidence, but it was occasionally too much. There were some sections where I found myself skimming the explanations so I could get back to the story. Readers need enough to understand the importance of what is going on, but not so many details that they get bogged down. 

My other issue was with the editing. There weren't a lot of mechanical errors, aside from not italicizing internal thoughts, but a stronger editor would have helped smooth out some of the issues that held back the book. The dialog was often stilted because of the lack of contractions and common phrasing. The amount of text written in ALL CAPS was very distracting and would have had better impact if italics had been used instead. 

"Head Hopping" is a huge pet peeve of mine. This is where the writer bounces between different character's points of view within a single scene. This is technically a big no-no, but even more important is that it is often distracting and confusing. For example, when Jim and Kathleen were questioning a witness and the witness's reaction was described, it wasn't always clear who's point of view observed this. Then when one of them mentioned it, but the other one didn't notice, it was confusing. If a reader has to stop and reread something because they aren't sure who saw what, the flow of the scene is broken and the reader is both distracted and confused, which is something to avoid. 

As a whole, this was an entertaining book with good characters and a pretty strong storyline. There are some smaller issues that could have been cleaned up to make it even better, but they don't stop me from recommending this book.

Would I recommend this book? Yes. The editing issues are outweighed by the characters and story. 

Who would I recommend this book to? It's definitely to appeal to regular crime mystery readers and police procedural readers who are interested in the forensics side of police work. Readers who aren't typically fans of the genre can enjoy this,too, because it of the good characters and story. There isn't a strong romantic element for romance readers, but there is hint of that possibly playing a bigger part in the sequel. 

No Evidence of a Crime is available from Amazon. "The Evidence is Clear" is also available from Amazon

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