Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Bodies in the snow: not so good if the snow hides them, better if there are tracks back to the house. Bodies in the snow: not so good if there is more than one of them, worse if one is a child. Bodies in the snow: bad if both of the bodies are dead, but if one is a child left in a coma, what is that? Would the child want to know that her tracks have lead the police back to the house where her parents have been shot dead? Would she want to know that the other body in the street belongs to a victim of the “Working Girl Killer”?
Karin Schaeffer, local mom, former police officer and now part-time private investigator wants to know. Karin has more reason to solve the case when her child’s nanny falls victim to the killer, too. Karin has the connections as the officer in charge of the investigation is an old friend but there are a couple of problems: firstly, she has no official role or right to information; secondly, Karin knows that Detective Billy is subject to PTSD that leaves him frozen, and that he is unwilling to admit it or get help. Then she finds that Chala, her deceased aide, has a teenage daughter overseas who needs help. Things get more complicated, nor are they helped by her husband, Mac, being out of things with man-flu.
Detective Billy’s problems come with a couple of film references implied early on in the cause of his illness (which echoes the end of I, THE JURY, book 1947, film 1953), and then its consequences (which featured in THE BLUE DAHLIA, film 1946). These disappear, though, as Karin’s interests take a different path, as it becomes clear that the two bodies found in the New York street are not directly related, and Karin instead wonders what happened in Abby’s house that made a child run out into the snow in her pyjamas. She is helped by the arrival of Dathi, the teenager from India, who is able to use contacts and internet “friends” which, by happy chance, she has already made with the neighbourhood. If any film reference now shows its head, it would be THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991), because that is where Karin finds her evidence and that evidence tends to suggest that the problems of contemporary New York lie not in foreigners coming to the country, but what the locals do on their holidays abroad.
This Katia Lief’s fourth novel and its style of spunky heroine, trying to cope with the problems of everyday life while fighting crime, is not unique. Last year I was reading Lisa Gardner’s D D Warren series, set in Boston, with a similar rationale. I suspect that there were a whole raft of films made in the 1930s and ‘40s that kept the genre ticking. So if you want a read in which grotesque murder, blackmail, and amnesia vie with home cooking, and with a guarantee that at least in this world, the weary PI will not open the refrigerator and find an empty milk bottle – women are too competent – this is it.