Sunday, April 10, 2016

Web of Deceit: Katherine Howell

From the summary at the author's website:
When paramedics Jane and Alex encounter a man refusing to get out of his crashed car, with bystanders saying he deliberately drove into a pole, it looks like a desperate cry for help. His frantic claim that someone is out to get him adds to their thinking that he is delusional. 
Later that day he is found dead under a train in what might be a suicide, but Jane is no longer so sure: she remembers the terror in his eyes. 
Detective Ella Marconi shares Jane's doubts, which are only compounded when the case becomes increasingly tangled.
Although this is the sixth book in an eight book series, this is only the third book by Howell that I have read. I read the first two books, Frantic and The Darkest Hour.  Detective Ella Marconi is the main character in the series but each book also features a paramedic who gets involved with a crime, and the case that Marconi is working on intersects in some way with the issues in the paramedic's life. In this book, we have two paramedics featured: Alex, a single father of a teenage daughter who recently was involved in a traumatic episode at work, and Jane, his partner, who is in a troubled relationship with a married man.

Katherine Howell is very good with characterization, and I find the people in the books very realistic. So realistic, in fact, that I get irritated with them and want them to get themselves straightened out. I also like the pacing of the stories. I have read the first two books in the series, and the pacing is what pulled me in. The second one, The Darkest Hour, was very long, nearly 500 pages in my mass market paperback edition, but I hardly noticed because the story moved so well. This one is a more reasonable length, 347 pages.

In some ways, this is a typical thriller. Some of the characters end up doing very stupid things that lead to problems in their lives, and the connections between various plot threads and the ending strains belief. But the story keeps the reader (at least this one) engaged, and it is easy to get involved and suspend disbelief. Although this is primarily a police procedural, I enjoy the elements of the story that follow the paramedics in their jobs and in their off hours.

Web of Deceit is the first Ella Marconi mystery published in the US. The publisher, Minotaur Books, provided me with my copy and I was very grateful. I have found it difficult to get copies of Katherine Howell's books here. I hope they will be publishing more of her books.

I did not have any problem reading the 6th book in the series without having read the three books that went before. Based on Ella's relationship with Dr. Callum McLennan in this book, some events have happened in her life that I missed by not reading books 3 - 5, but enough background detail is included. Many reviewers of this series of novels have commented that the books can be read as standalone novels, and I agree. Especially with the addition of a new paramedic each book, each story works alone very well.

See other reviews:


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Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2015 (orig. pub. 2013)
Length:      347 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Ella Marconi #6
Setting:      Sydney, Australia
Genre:       Police procedural
Source:     Review copy provided by the publisher.



16 comments:

  1. I'm really glad you enjoyed this, Tracy. I think the Ella Marconi series is a really well-written one, with a real sense of Sydney. And I agree with you that it's not hard at all to enjoy one or another novel in the series without having read all of them in order.

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    1. I would be happy to see more of them published in the US, Margot.

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  2. I had a very, very mixed reaction to FRANTIC (especially all the dumb things the characters end up doing) so have not been all that enthusiastic about picking this series up again ...

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    1. I remember that, Sergio. At the time, I went back and read the problematic section you had noted in that first book and was surprised that I had not had a similar reaction. I haven't found any other circumstances that extreme in Howell's later books but I do understand your reluctance.

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  3. You know it's been ages since I read Howell, and I really need to. I'm off to dig up my books!

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    1. Great, Rebecca, I will look forward to your reviews. So hard to keep up with all the authors that you like, isn't it?

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  4. You're right, her books are hard to get here. I've heard so much about her books. Hopefully more will be published here in future. Thanks for the review. When writers create characters that get you that irritated then you know they're doing a great job with characterization. I could say the same with Karin Slaughter. She writes the most bitchiest women I've ever come across in my reading. Pardon my language there.

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    1. No problem, Keishon. You have reminded me I need to try more of Slaughter's books. I only read the first one, and was surprised to like it so well because it is fairly violent and tense. But I did like the characters, and that makes a big difference.

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  5. Enough people have recommended this author that I really must try her...

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    1. Definitely worth a try, Moira. And a series that can be picked up in the middle, which I usually don't recommend. Although, nowadays, I have to be more lax with that, because I will never catch up on most series.

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  6. Both my stepsons did a stint as volunteer firefighter/paramedics in our small community, Tracy, and I know from them how stressful that work can be. Interesting to star paramedics in a crime series. I shall definitely check this author out.

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    1. I am sure being a paramedic (or a firefighter) is very stressful, Mathew, and this book illustrates that very well. I admire anyone who volunteers to be a paramedic. I did not know you could do that until I read an article on that topic a few years ago. It must take a lot of dedication.

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    2. They get excellent training, Tracy.

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    3. I am sure they do, Mathew. And it is very impressive work to do, especially as a volunteer. Seems that it would take so much presence of mind.

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    4. The oldest, now a psychologist with the Veterans Administration, went thru a stretch of handling fatalities in such rapid succession we started worrying about him. He denied it was getting to him, but I talked to the chief, who assured me the department keeps a close eye on the younger members and counsels them when it appears they're starting to overload. That was comforting to know.

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    5. It would get to me, Mathew, and I am glad they keep a watch on that situation.

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