Monday, July 21, 2008

The Blue Hour - T. Jefferson Parker

A psychopath is abducting women and leaving their blood behind, but no bodies. Orange County sheriff's deputy Merci Rayborn is on the case. But Merci has filed a sexual harassment suit against her partner, and the sheriff wants someone to partner with her who can keep an "eye" on her. Therefore, he recruits Tim Hess to come in from retirement. Tim can't say no because he is being treated for cancer and desperately needs the medical benefits the work will provide.

Tim and Merci take off in search of "The Purse Snatcher." He's been coined "The Purse Snatcher" because he leaves the women's purses at the same location he leaves their vehicles and blood.

Tim and Merci are like Yin and Yang in this book. Tim is older, he's retired and headed toward 70. Merci is in her 30s, almost at the start of her career. Tim has insight from his years as a law enforcement officer. Merci has gumption and a strong will. She's determined.

I was very impressed with the way Parker handled Merci's character. She is the stereotypical female determined to make it to the top. Most people who work with her are put off by her, and she doesn't make any friends when she files the harassment suit against her ex-partner. But through Hess we see beyond the mask that Merci wears. She's definitely been hardened by circumstances, but she's also a very capable person who is trying to do her job to the best of her ability. She isn't concerned with being popular, but she isn't purposely trying to alienate herself either. In addition, Merci is capable of love and compassion. Most people just don't try to know her enough to see that part of her. She's a very complex character and she doesn't fit into any neat category.

Tim is a character with many regrets. Whether he's doing so purposefully or not, he's helping Merci see the mistakes he's made so she doesn't have to experience the same regret later in her life. What doesn't seem to be so clear to Tim is that everyone has experiences they ultimately regret. They may be able to avoid some situations, but there will ultimately be regrets. And Merci ends up with regrets as well.

Parker's talent with the suspenseful plot is incredible. He misleads you in many ways before uncovering the answers. But even when the answers are uncovered, he may through another twist in. Until the actual "the end", you never know what's going to happen. While I had some inkling of what the outcome would be...Parker doesn't include plot elements that aren't going to tie into the conclusion...he still managed to surprise me in the end.

I listened to this book on audio and it took me awhile to finish it. The reader, Kevin Patrick, I have to say was less than stellar. The jarring way he read dialogue made many of the characters sound not-so-intelligent. It also seemed to slow the plot down. That element was a bit of a disappointment to me, but the book itself was outstanding and well worth the read.


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