Detective Pauls was a bored cop with nothing to do around the house. It was an involuntary vacation forced on him by the boss while Internal Affairs was investigating him for the shooting (not accidental) of a 14-year-old juvenile entrepreneur who had been repairing a neighbor’s window at 1:00 AM in the dark without any light source to aid him. Civil libertarians were screaming for his blood while ignoring his claims of a justified shooting. While resting, Pauls had performed every household chore possible which would have made his wife proud if he had a wife. Pauls almost welcomed a call for his expertise in the investigation of a suspicious suicide at a nearby shooting range. Immediate identification of the victim was almost impossible due to an atomized, thus missing, head but Pauls would try to work with what he had. One piece of evidence Pauls would eventually find is in the title, The Girl on the Videotape by Ruth Parker.
Detective Pauls does not work with mediocre colleagues. They are either extremely incompetent or possessed of hidden brilliance that comes out in clever repartee with Pauls. The humor hidden in dialogue is multi-layered and extremely funny. I find it interesting when I can remember certain lines several hours later and still laugh at the cleverness of the discourse. However, a central theme, pedophilia, is a topic distasteful enough to have led me to quit law enforcement. I remain unimpressed by the defense offered by a central character in sections called Interludes that the young person was mature beyond her years and had a lot of responsibility for their skewed relationship. I was impressed a detective’s analysis of what might be going on in the mind of the pedophile and why the criminal’s rationale was both wrong and doomed.
The copyright for this novel is 2017. I am sure it was available before the latest round of revelations about after hours (and maybe office hours) activities of our top movie makers, movie actors, politicians, comedians and a host of other powerful figures taking advantage of privileges in a patriarchal culture. Reading the novel in the current climate of indisputable, proven facts and disputable he-said/she-said rumors makes the central theme of this novel even more difficult to write about. At no time did I think the author was excusing the actions of Andrew Worley (dead guy and pedophile) but the author did a great job of having Andrew rationalize his actions. Was Linda the victim of Andrew’s actions or was she a willing, consenting, and provocative partner? Parker has Linda almost admit to being a precocious Lolita who does not victimize Andrew but instead draws Andrew into a complex, dark, multi-partner relationship. Sometimes the reason was money but Linda admits that many times it was for the fun of new experiences.
With so many weird, twisty things going on, it is safe to say that this is not a book for the younger audience. For those who have a hypersensitivity to political correctness or fear the lances that accompany micro-aggressions, there is a danger of emotional overreaction. I initially felt outraged at the portrayals of how Linda and Andrew developed their relationship. I didn’t read this in one session; I had to get back to the realization that this is a well-done fiction novel. So, two sessions. Careful reading should show that the author is not showing sympathy for the actors drawn to the dark side, she is telling a really good story with well-crafted characters. The plot has many twists with political corruption, government nepotism, and at least one undocumented hitman. As a side note, are documented murder-for-hire types preferable to undocumented ones?
There are lots of surprises and turns throughout the novel and a tense, page-turner ending. And when the reader thinks there has been a conclusion, there is an epilogue worth reading. For fun after reading it, go back and read the prologue. When I did this, I appreciated the author’s skill as a storyteller much more than if I had just closed the book without a bit of rereading.
Because of the complexity of the novel, I gave it five Amazon stars and a couple of clicks on links for another Parker novel, Twin Offerings.