Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A solid mystery about school shootings

The Competition

By Marcia Clark

Publisher: Mulholland Books 

Pub. Dat: July 8, 2014

Rating: 3 & 1/2 out of 5 stars.

The Competition is a solid mystery novel that is better than I anticipated. The phenomena of celebrity lawyers becoming novelists is nothing unusual but I daresay it evokes a certain amount of skepticism in the average mystery reader. I certainly had that my doubts when I received this novel to review. Marcia Clark is mainly known as the lawyer that prosecuted O.J. Simpson. Little did I know she wrote three books before The Competition, all involving a district attorney by the name of Rachel Knight. But I ended up pleasantly surprised and if it didn't soar above the heavy competition in the mystery field, it did present itself as an intelligent and thoroughly intriguing mystery novel.

In The Competition, Rachel Knight and her homicide detective friend Bailey Keller investigates a shooting at a San Fernando Valley high school. The crime bears some resemblance to Columbine and it appears that, like Columbine, the two shooters killed themselves. Yet it soon becomes clear that this may not be the case. From there on, it is a cavalcade of rapid investigations, interviews with unreliable witnesses, and lots of red herrings as they try to prevent the next inevitable tragedy and hopefully figure out what is really happening. Not surprisingly, Clark provides a nice level of realism to her story of a homicide investigation. A little more surprisingly, is that Clark seems more involved with the detective side than the prosecutorial aspects. The book focuses solely on the investigation; a little disappointingly for me since there is no courtroom suspense scene as I may have suspected considering her profession. But this is not a criticism. Clark as a writer seems totally at ease in the field, so to speak.

It's an entertaining novel with a charismatic character in Rachel Knight. While there are 3 books before this, it is entirely standalone with needed information from the other 3 books deftly managed and inserted. It has a bit of a ICU / Law and Order feel that I enjoy. Overall, it is a solid whodunnit that deals sensitively with a hot topic. Now that she has quit her day job, Clark appears to be a new and refreshing voice in a crowded literary genre. Three and a half stars.

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