Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney travels to a California ranch looking to buy some prime quarter horse breeding stock. Instead, he finds himself the prime suspect in a possible homicide when the ranch owner, Clifford Spalding, is found dead. Confronted by a determined cop unwilling to let him off the hook, Kerney decides to conduct his own investigation. As he digs into the victim's background, he learns that Spalding's ex-wife refuses to believe that her son, a soldier killed in Vietnam some thirty years ago, is dead. Kerney digs deeper and soon finds himself sharing the woman's doubts: Did Spalding's current wife, a much younger woman, orchestrate his murder with the help of a lover? Did a California cop collude with Spalding to keep his ex-wife from learning the truth about her son? Slow Kill races from West Coast to East Coast, as Kerney tries to extricate himself from a situation that could ruin his career by finding the answers to a thirty-year-old mystery.
In McGarrity's latest Kevin Kerney procedural, Kerney, police chief of Santa Fe, N.Mex., is drawn into a messy murder investigation while vacationing at a California ranch. A wealthy hotel magnate, Clifford Spalding, dies of poisoning in the guest room next to Kerney's. Finding himself a suspect, Kerney decides to pursue the case on his own for a few days, uncovering some peculiar circumstances and characters in Spalding's background. They include an unfaithful trophy wife and her shady boyfriend, a deranged and bitter ex-wife and a missing son who presumably died in Vietnam 30 years ago, as well as a couple of police officials who are not as forthcoming as one would expect. Within a few days, Kerney is cleared by California authorities and returns home to more familiar ground. But because of the case's Santa Fe connections, he and his stable of detectives continue the pursuit. As in McGarrity's eight previous Kerney novels (Everyone Dies; etc.), the author excels at detailing police procedures as well as creating a homespun, wry tone that suits setting and characters. His action sequences are shakier, however, and several highly dramatic moments--the arrest of the main suspect, her release and eventual capture--are flat and hurried. A bit more attention to pacing and momentum could give this appealing series a needed shot of adrenaline.
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August 01, 2005
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