Thursday, November 1, 2001

Death by the Riverside

J. M. Redmann
Bella Books

Newly reprinted, Death by the Riverside is the first of the Micky Knight mysteries (the third, Intersection of Law and Desire won a Lambda Lit Award). Here is an opportunity to meet Micky and her wonderful assortment of friends. The ensemble cast that Redmann creates is an amusing crew of friends and family (Puns intended). Each individual is clearly defined and easily recognizable with detailed backgrounds that evolve over the series.

Written in the first person, all the Micky Knight stories have a contemporary version of the gritty, gumshoe feel of classic noir mysteries. The action in Riverside (and Micky's irreverent humor) begins immediately as she finds herself helping a "tasteful" young blond socialite track down the fiance that spurned her. When said socialite turns out to be quite familiar with lesbian sex while laying a trap to cut her brother out of his share of the family inheritance for being gay, Micky decides to even the score. Thus she finds herself meeting the socialite's grandfather, the Holloway family patriarch and his other granddaughter, Cordelia. This meeting opens the door to ghosts from Micky's childhood which she tries very hard to smother with alcohol and women and foreshadows many storylines in the series.

At the request of a sort of friend, fellow karate student, and NOPD detective Joanne, Micky soon finds herself drawn into efforts to break a regional drug ring that turns out to be using part of the Holloway plantation as a shipping and storage location. There's a great deal of page turning action as Micky tries to help the police, her new friend Barbara, not to mention the good doctor Cordelia AND keep herself alive while catching the bad guys.

Meanwhile, the reader learns bits of the past that Micky tries desperately to hide from herself and others. Redmann's depictions of the scars left by childhood abuse are powerfully accurate in all four of the Micky Knight stories. Indeed many of the questions raised or hinted at in Death by the Riverside are not answered until the fourth novel, Lost Daughters. Redmann's well developed characterization has the reader wishing she could have a beer, or maybe a po'boy sandwich with some of these women. Certainly you will find yourself looking for the upcoming reissue of the Deaths of Jocasta to follow their continuing adventures. And to cheer Micky on as she struggles to reclaim her past and heal herself.

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