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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Two more by Kate Wilhelm

Clear and Convincing Proof (ISBN: 1-55166-697-9, 2003) & Sleight of Hand (ISBN: 978-0-7783-2340-2, 2006) by Kate Wilhelm. Ontario, Canada: MIRA Books.

Here are two more expertly crafted Barbara Holloway legal mystery novels well worth reading, if you're a fan, or even if you're not!

Clear and Convincing Proof is about a medical clinic, where the younger, highly controlling, strictly business-oriented doctor is threatening to take over from the kinder, gentler side of the business that founded and directed the business all these years. Of course the nasty fellow gets murdered, and we (no, Barbara) have/has to figure out whodunit. My only complaint about this one is that the culprit is someone we've been predisposed to like, and the eventual denouement comes as a bit of a rude shock, kind of like a dip in an icy bath.

Sleight of Hand is better. As per usual Wilhelm's plots, the person that gets murdered is nobody's friend, someone the world is better off without. But then the problem becomes, who gets stuck with the rap? In this case, the book's title refers to a man who is a master pickpocket, and who spent time in jail as a youth, but then became reformed, and makes his living by giving occasional shows in which he divests people of their valuables and then publicly returns them, surprising everyone who has no idea the items have been taken. He has also made videos for the police, to show how professional pickpockets work.

Well, to the local police he is the obvious fall guy for the murder, even though we know (or think we know) that he didn't do it. In this story Barbara ends up figuring out who probably did it, but is determined to protect them also, for reasons that become apparent along the way. Still, at the end, her clients (and non-clients) protected, she is burnt out on the justice system, and decides to leave for a while.

So will there be more Barbara Holloway novels coming? The author's web site gives us no clue, since it hasn't been kept up to date, and doesn't even list Sleight of Hand. The last novel it has is The Unbidden Truth (2004), which I haven't read, but should since it has a musical connection, according to the synopsis on the web site, and I'm a sucker for anything musical in fiction.

So what's my take on Ms. Wilhelm? Good, great even, but not superb. She's not quite in the same league as Laurie King, at least in my book. Why? It's hard to say. But her characters and her writing just don't grab me quite as hard as Ms. King's do. I'm not enough of an egotist to state unequivocally that it's because one or the other is a better writer, just that one appeals to MY taste more than the other. You may see it differently. I can only call them the way I see them.

And I certainly realize that when it comes to mysteries, taste pays a big part in what one person likes, and another doesn't. Although, don't get me wrong. I like Kate Wilhelm a lot. Just not as much as I like some other authors. When it comes to mysteries, Laurie King is my all time favorite currently writing author. And you'll find a dozen or so of her books reviewed here on Tillabooks. Just check out the mystery index.

Still, I still recommend Kate Wilhelm's books to anyone who loves a good mystery. They have the added benefit, for me, of being set in my native state of Oregon (I was born there, even though I currently reside in Washington, next door). So if you're looking for a good legal mystery, by all means, pick up one of Kate Wilhelm's Barbara Holloway stories. I doubt you'll be disappointed.

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