First line: "In the ambulance's passenger seat, paramedic Alex Churchill checked his mobile."
In the sixth novel of her Ella Marconi mystery series--the first published in the United States--Katherine Howell performs an intricate juggling act with three alternating storylines. Paramedics Jane Koutoufides and Alex Churchill race to the scene when a man crashes his car into a telephone pole. The driver, Marko Meixner, appears fine physically but is convinced someone is following him and he's in grave danger. Left with no option but to leave Meixner in a waiting area of the crowded hospital, the paramedics next encounter their victim under a train, dead.
Detective Ella Marconi and her colleagues are tasked with determining whether Meixner's death is a murder or a suicide. Marconi is convinced he was pushed and has several potential suspects, but her cost-cutting supervisor believes Meixner was psychologically unstable and took his own life. If Marconi can't establish solid proof quickly, her boss will reallocate the team's manpower to clearing cold cases.
Meanwhile, Koutoufides is dealing with the jealous wife of her ex-husband who is becoming increasingly violent, going so far as to fabricate a serious assault complaint against Koutoufides to her employer. And Churchill's teenage daughter is acting out at home and school until one night when Churchill is on night shift she runs away.
Howell skillfully keeps all of these plot balls in the air, maintaining an engagingly quick pace, high suspense and well-concealed twists. One of the threads' conclusions feels a bit forced compared to the other satisfyingly smart outcomes, but the slight bobble doesn't diminish the overall enjoyment of this riveting, coordinated performance.
Web of Deceit is available in hardcover (ISBN: 9781250053961) from Minotaur. You can find a copy at your favorite independent bookstore or the following retailers: