Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Riveting Tale of Love, Loss, and Murder from Kent Harrington

This is a great crime novel with a badly damaged protagonist at its core. A year ago, San Francisco homicide detective Michael O'Higgins lost his wife in a tragic boating accident. He blames himself for the accident and in the months since, he has basically been unable to function. He's sent his daughter off to live with relatives; he's on a stress leave from his job, and he's seeing a young psychiatrist who is trying her best but who seems unable to help him.

Since the accident, O'Higgins has been deathly afraid of the water and, as part of the therapy, his psychiatrist encourages him to take a ferry ride. He is barely able to function on the ferry, but is comforted by an Indian family that he meets on the vessel. Shortly thereafter, he tentatively returns to work, only to land a very high-profile case. A woman arrrives at her very expensive home on Nob Hill to discover that her wealthy husband and the family's nanny have been brutally murdered. On arriving at the scene, O'Higgins is stunned to discover that the male victim is the Indian man who had been so kind to him on the ferry.

Early on, the evidence points to the victim's wife, Asha, a beautiful young woman whose marriage to the victim had been arranged. The operating theory is that Asha discovered the her husband and the nanny were having an affair and that she killed them both in a fit of jealous rage. This accusation is supported by Asha's father-in-law, an extremely wealthy and very well-connected Indian politician who has been living briefly with the family.

The Powers That Be, both in the U.S. and in India, want this case resolved as expeditiously as possible and insist that O'Higgins and his partner make the case against Asha. But O'Higgins is not convinced that she's guilty and he is strongly drawn to the woman for reasons that he cannot explain. Thus he pushes back against his bosses and his own partner in an effort to ensure that justice is actually done in the case.

It's a riveting story, beautifully written with very well-drawn and sympathetic characters. O'Higgins's struggle to recover and to put his life back into some sort of order is as compelling as the murder investigation itself, and if he fails in one effort, he will almost certainly fail at the other. This is a book that should appeal to large numbers of crime fiction fans, and it's one of the best novels I've read thus far this year.

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