Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Last Good Place: Robin Burcell

Summary at the publisher's web site:
Sgt. Al Krug and his younger, college-educated partner Casey Kellog are investigating a string of strangulation killings when another victim is found at the Presidio…but a surprising, violent incident at the crime scene makes them wonder if everything is what it seems. The two mis-matched cops, with sharply conflicting approaches to detective work, are under intense pressure to get results. It’s a race-against-the-clock investigation that propels them into the deadly intersection of politics, real estate, media and vice… the fertile, fog-shrouded killing field of a ruthless murderer.
This book is a continuation of a police procedural series from the 1970s, written by Carolyn Weston, which formed the basis for the TV series The Streets of San Francisco. When Brash Books acquired all the rights to Weston’s books from her heirs, they also decided to continue the series and they chose Robin Burcell to write it for them.

The original series was set in Santa Monica, California. I read the 2nd book in that series, Susannah Screaming. In my review, I described the two police officers:
Casey Kellog and Al Krug are two homicide detectives working for the Santa Monica Police Department. Kellog is young and has a college education; Krug is older, cranky, and curmudgeonly... and very resistant to new ideas.
The first book in the series, Poor, Poor Ophelia, was the basis for the pilot of the TV series. Both the book and the TV series were released in 1972. In the TV series, the older cop, Lieutenant Mike Stone (played by Karl Malden), is a kinder and gentler character, a mentor to his younger partner; the younger cop, Steve Keller (played by Michael Douglas), is much like the character in the book, headstrong and brash but intelligent.

As Burcell says in J. Kingston Pierce's excellent article and interview at Kirkus Reviews, this novel is not so much a continuation of the original series by Carolyn Weston as a complete reboot. The route to this new series is circuitous due to the fact that it is drawing on both Weston's books and the TV series.

In the new series, Burcell keeps the names and general relationship of the cops from Carolyn Weston's books. She bases the story in San Francisco like the TV series, but she has updated the story to the present day. It works very well, and the story is accessible to readers who have no familiarity with either Weston's books or the TV series.

A quote from the interview at Kirkus Reviews, re the character of Al Krug in The Last Good Place:
In the end, I made the command decision to bring in the best of both worlds. I took the qualities of Krug that I could live with (grizzled, old-school cop, doesn’t always operate by the books, but knows when it is necessary to do so), then added a dash of Karl Malden and ended up with the modern-day Krug from my book.
Our family are great fans of The Streets of San Francisco and have watched the first two seasons of that show over the last couple of years. As we began watching the shows, we noticed the credit given to Carolyn Weston on each episode, but I never followed up until I noticed that Brash Books was putting out new editions of her books. And I was very interested to hear of a new continuation novel coming out.

The biggest draw that this novel has for me is the setting and the connection to the TV show. But as I have already mentioned, it is a fine police procedural in its own right, and readers don't need to have any knowledge of either the prior series or the TV show.

Other aspects of the book that I like:

  • Burcell does a great job of portraying San Francisco, and that only makes sense as she has lived in the area and has a previous series set in that city.
  • Burcell sticks with the framework used in both Weston's series and the TV show, where we follow the investigation but also get detailed glimpses of the other participants in the story: neighbors, co-workers, investigative reporters. This makes for a complex story with unexpected twists, especially near the end.
  • The story has a good pace without feeling rushed. 

I do hope Burcell continues with this new version of the series. I would like to see her flesh out the characters of Krug and Kellog more.

I will end with a few quotes from other authors:

"Robin Burcell, both a writing and law enforcement veteran, takes hold of novelist Carolyn Weston's baton to create a twisty mystery worthy of the iconic team's homicide investigation. The streets of San Francisco come alive in this new installment, and I hope that there are more to come. A definite winner!"
 -- Naomi Hirahara, Edgar Award winning author of Murder on Bamboo Lane

"Robin Burcell has expertly updated the Krug & Kellogg series for old and new readers alike. She knows her stuff and puts it to good use in this entertaining and authentic police procedural,"
 -- Alafair Burke- New York Times Bestselling Author of All Day and a Night.

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Publisher:   Brash Books, 2015
Length:      289 pages
Format:      e-book
Series:       Casey Kellog and Al Krug
Setting:      San Francisco, California
Genre:       Police Procedural
Source:      Provided by the publisher for review via NetGalley


8 comments:

  1. I've only skimmed this as I intend to read it after the third Weston book - I've read two of them so far. It is an enjoyable series and a bit of a nostalgia trip when I think of the TV series.

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    1. I am glad you are going to read this, Col. Interested in your opinion. I plan to read Poor, Poor Ophelia sometime soon.

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  2. The TV series was good, Tracy, no doubt about that. And I think it's interesting that they've decided to do follow-ons to the book series, too. I'm glad you enjoyed this. I'm usually not one for follow-ons, but if a story's good, well, it's good.

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    1. Margot, I was especially interested in how the new book was handled, since the book series and the TV series have definite differences.

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  3. I don't think I ever watched the series and I didn't know it came from a series of books. I will have to try one.

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    1. Patti, I cannot remember if I saw the show when it came out. So many periods in my life I wasn't watching much television. I am sure I must have seen reruns at some time. We do enjoy watching the series now, although the hairstyles and the dress of the time sometimes seem laughable. The show has a lot of the same guest stars as Hawaii Five-O, although that show started sooner and lasted longer.

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  4. That's an interesting decision, to continue a series so long after the original. I feel I'd go back to the early books, or even the TV series, before trying this one.

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    1. I would recommend the early books first, if you are interested, Moira, but they are less like the TV series than the new "reboot." Each one of them, including the TV series, has its good points.

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