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Friday, March 18, 2011

Author Leigh Russell

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. As I have often lamented on this blog, I do not have the time to read as often as I would like. I was never one to swallow multiple books whole each and every week, but there were most definitely several authors that I would read faithfully and would indeed devour their books just as soon as I got them into my hands.

Over the years I have tried to stay current with Patricia Cornwell, Michael Slade and Clive Barker. I fall on and off of Uncle Stevie’s bandwagon, picking and choosing as he releases new novels or novella collections. Recently, I have begun to reading the works of those of us newbie authors. I have read Michelle Stinson Ross, Carole Gill, Jennifer Wylie and Talli Roland to name a few. And there’s many more I want to read, just as soon as I can make time for them.

This month I have had the pleasure of reading an author who I think must be well on her way. Her name is Leigh Russell. Leigh has a blog and can be found on the other social networks as well. I follow her and she has been kind enough to say hello on a couple of occasions. From what I understand she is doing very well and it will not be long before we will have to be contacting “her people” should we wish to reach her.

But enough of that. Let’s get to the books.

The following is the synopsis that can be found at Barnes & Noble: "D.I. Geraldine Steel expects the quiet town of Woolsmarsh to be dull. She quickly discovers she is wrong. The park is a place where children play, friends sit and gossip, people walk their dogs, or take a short cut to avoid the streets. But in the shadows a predator prowls, hunting for victims. A woman sees the killer and comes forward as a witness—someone whom the killer must stop at all costs. For D.I. Geraldine Steel, it is a race against time to find the killer before he strikes again, as public pressure mounts with the growing death toll."

Leigh’s debut, Cut Short introduces us to Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel, who works major crimes in England. She is a tenacious inspector who treats her work as more important than herself; yet, she longs for a regular life as most of us do. She’s simply torn. We are also introduced to a well-rounded cast of characters that continue on along with her.

In this story, the serial killer terrorizes a community, across both classes and multiple nationalities. I thought it was a great touch. More than that, I appreciated that we did not walk with a doppelganger Sherlock Holmes, more brilliant that anyone else on Earth, able to hunt down the killer by clues that not even we can see. Instead, we have a flawed and troubled person, following dead-end clues until she ultimately latches onto the real ones that close the case. If you are interested in real detective work, where the police actually sit through stakeouts and gain little; or seem to be grasping at straws more often than not, then this may be your writer.

I found Cut Short to be a fantastic read, taking me only days to finish. I thought it to be well-written and well-paced, with a fresh batch of intriguing characters to go along with a fresh tight plot.

Her second novel is Road Closed.

Once again, from Barnes & Noble: "When a man dies in a gas explosion, the police suspect arson. The Murder Investigation Team are called in to investigate, but the case takes on a new and terrible twist when a local villain is viciously attacked. As the police enquiries lead from the expensive Harchester Hill estate to the local brothel, a witness dies in a hit-and-run. Was it coincidence—or cold-blooded murder? The Murder Investigation Team has problems of its own—and so does Geraldine Steel. A shocking revelation threatens her peace of mind as the investigation races towards its dramatic climax."

It took longer for me to warm up to this story, but by the time I had finished it, I got it. And I felt I got Russell. I realized what the author was doing with her two novels. The second one had its big opening, but then it moved methodically, slowing building to that crescendo. This wasn’t an author who had struggled to find a “good idea” for her second novel, but one who was intent on keeping everything real. Once again, no Sherlock Holmes, but real police procedure and tenacity. We got thieves who baffle the police, eventually committing murder and then degenerating further, seemingly doing anything they please and well beyond the grasp of investigators.

During it all, we find our troubled heroine continuing to deal with personal loss and troubles of the heart, seemingly married to her work, pushing everything else away.

Just as the original police had been unable to crack the slew of robberies, so the team of Detective Inspectors struggle solving the murder case. From dead-end clues to witnesses who refuse to cooperate, the action slowly builds to its proper conclusion. I daresay we do not get many plots like this one. From serial burglaries that eventually graduate the thieves to murder; from victims that begin to take matters into their own hands, albeit only partially successfully – I look forward to what Russell has up her sleeve with the third installment, Dead End.

Being from the United States, and a Californian at that – remember that Lead Zeppelin removed the “a” from their name so the "thick" Americans wouldn’t pronounce them as Leed Zeppelin – I found I did trip a few times with some of the “British” words or expressions; however, I eventually caught on and it certainly did nothing to dissuade me from continuing. You shouldn’t have any trouble either.

We read Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series faithfully in my house. This Geraldine Steel is just as three-dimensional; someone that you are equally pull for as well as want to sit down and give a lecture to, especially as she works herself ragged and drinks entirely too much.

Well done, Leigh Russell.

Before I go, I shall leave you with a taste of what it coming later this year...

"When the corpse of Abigail Kirby is discovered, police are shocked to learn that the victim's tongue was cut out while she lay dying. Then, shortly after coming forward, a witness is blinded and murdered. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel's work life helps her cope with the personal, as her flirtation with the pathologist on the case is helping her to deal with the the newest shock in her life—finding out she was adopted at birth. When Detective Sergeant Ian Peterson uncovers a shocking secret about the serial killer they are pursuing, will the discovery come soon enough to save Geraldine Steel from a similar dreadful fate?"

We'll talk soon.

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