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