Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Malcontenta: Barry Maitland


The Malcontenta is the second book in the mystery series featuring Kathy Kolla and David Brock. Kathy has been seconded to the Family and Juvenile Crime unit in the Kent County CID to get additional training and experience. This doesn’t seem to be working out too well for her. All of her assignments so far have been routine. She is finally assigned to a death at a naturopathic facility (an apparent suicide). The medical examiner finds evidence which indicates that the death was not suicide, and she is eager to follow up on it. Then, all of a sudden, her superior officer removes her from the investigation and the death is declared a suicide. Kathy feels strongly that the death was suspicious, and consults Brock on how to proceed.

I liked the structure of this novel, which I think must be different from most of the books in this series. The first portion of the book is the story of the initial investigation, which Kathy is in charge of. This is followed by a section where Brock works alone to follow up on her concerns once the investigation is cancelled. Towards the end Kathy and Brock join forces to finish the investigation.

The story examines sexism and corruption within a police department. Kathy Kolla and David Brock are exemplary officers with their quirks and flaws, but many other characters (both in the police department and at the health facility) are taking advantage of their positions to manipulate the situation. This is an unusual story, not a typical police procedural, because Kathy and Brock are often working outside of the system.The series goes on for a total of twelve books (so far), and it seems in this book that Kathy and Brock are still getting used to each other and are not officially working together.

Interesting comments on the series from the author:
As the stories have continued, the relationship between the two detectives has gradually evolved, with Kathy becoming more self-confident and Brock more dependent on her insights and tenacity. Both Brock, divorced, and Kathy, single, have had relationships with other people during the series, which also features a number of other regular characters both within and outside the police force, but it is the bond between the two main players which provides the central dynamic of the stories.
Each book is set in a different part of London and its surrounds, where I grew up and which I now return to as a partial stranger. I like to think of the detectives waiting for us at the start of each story, ready to lead us into a new and maybe unexpected part of the city. I have always loved the strong part that atmosphere and a sense of place play in crime fiction, and my architectural background contributes to that. The buildings and laneways are, for me, another set of characters in the books.
Now that I have gotten back to this series I will continue reading the books. I found the story to be fast paced and it kept me guessing. I have several more books in the series.

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Publisher: Penguin Books, 2001; orig. pub. 1995
Length:  348 pages
Format: mass market paperback
Series:  Brock and Kolla
Setting:   England
Genre:  Mystery, Police Procedural

19 comments:

  1. Nicely reviewed, Tracy. I think the title of the book, "The Malcontenta," refers to "malcontent" and indicates Kathy's frame of mind as she defies authority to continue her investigation of the mysterious death at the naturopathic facility. It's a nice play on the word.

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    1. Thanks, Prashant. I did not think about the connection between the title and Kathy's state of mind, but it makes sense. In the book, The Malcontenta is a building based on an original building in Italy.

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  2. Gosh, another long-running series I know nothing about - thanks TracyK, definitelysounds like somethign I might like, even with my teetering TBR pile staring balefully at me!

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    1. Sergio, I have only read two of the books, but I understand that interesting architectural buildings figure in each of them. The author was born in Scotland, studied in the UK, then moved to Australia. I hope you get to try one sometime.

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  3. Tracy - This is a well-written series, I think. I like the way that Maitland addresses issues in the novels but at the same time keeps the focus on the mystery. And I like the Brock and Kolla characters too.

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    1. Margot, this book wasn't what I expected, but it is good to be surprised sometimes. Looking forward to trying more of them.

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  4. Great review, Tracy - it seems like every time I read your blog you manage to intoduce me to a new series I have never heard of before, you're so great at seeking out lesser-known authors or forgotten gems!

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    1. Marie, I think it will be a good series overall. It has taken me a while to get back to it. I hope you do try the series.

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  5. Tracy, I have skimmed the review as I have added some of these series books to my stack. Glad to see you enjoyed it.
    Not sure when I will catch up with you and Maitland but I'm thinking it won't be this year.

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    1. Col, this book by Maitland was definitely on my list for this year. But right now I have so many books I want to read this year, I doubt I will fit them all in.

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  6. I have the first book in this series and when I bought it I had no idea how many books were in it. I love police procedurals so I will make sure to read it this year hopefully. BTW Tracy if you have any tips or advice on what to do when confronted with so many great books to read and in what order one should read them please share with the rest of us, ok? LOL. My tbr mountains are hard to navigate at the moment. Great review.

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    1. Cutting in on your conversation - sorry. Back before I blogged and got buried in books and obligations, I used to ask my kids in turn to give me a letter from the alphabet. This kind of narrowed my options down but still gave me a free hand to choose a book. I might go back to that approach or maybe send my daughter up the loft on the 1st of the month and ask her to fetch me any 10 books down.

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    2. Tracy's Glen chiming in with my "what to read next" scheme. When I'm ready to start the next book, I pull six or so from my TBR mountain and ask Tracy to pick for me. I can always count on a quality pick.

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    3. Thanks, Keishon. I don't really have much advice for how to handle the TBR pile when there are so many great books to read. Sometimes my challenges guide me toward a book, but that means others get ignored. Sometimes I like to stay with a theme for a while, which I think you do also (lots of vintage, lots of police procedurals). But mostly I aim for variety, both in types of genre and when the books were written. I get frustrated knowing there are so many books I want to read... and SOON. However, I love to pick Glen's next book, as he mentions. Helping someone else pick their next book, that is easy.

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    4. Thank you Col, Glen and Tracy for your feedback. Much appreciated.

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  7. I love this series, it's one of my favourites, and I buy and read new entries soon after they come out. I think one of the attractions is the tremendous sense of place - it's always hard to believe that Barry Maitland doesn't live in London, he describes it so well. So I was very interested to read that comment by him, which I have never seen before!

    Like the people above, I am always impressed by the way you plan your reading, you sound so efficient and organized. I try to be, but then something happens and I get distracted, a book pops up that I really want to read. Or - this is rare, and I don't really complain - I really love a book so much that I HAVE to read more by the author, or continue the series...

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  8. Moira, I remember your review of The Raven, and that was a motivator pushing me to get back to this series. It is interesting that my reading seems organized, I suppose it is, but I am always lamenting the books I keep pushing back on the pile. Glen complains about his TBR pile, mine is at least 5 times bigger. I should have an embargo, but that never works.

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  9. This sounds good, Tracy and maybe something a bit different. I'll give it a go when I can.

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    1. Sarah, this one was good, and I am looking forward to more. Hope you try a book in the series.

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