Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Murderous Passions by B. R. Stateham

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Murderous Passions by B. R. Stateham. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Murderous Passions by B. R. Stateham

Murderous Passions by
Non-series

PublishAmerica (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-60672-357-X (160672357X)
ISBN-13: 978-1-60672-357-9 (9781606723579)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Homicide detectives and partners Turner Hahn and Frank Morales attempt to deal with an overflowing caseload by simultaneously investigating multiple murders in B. R. Stateham’s Murderous Passions. Different cases proceed in very different directions in this realist-style crime novel, and readers scramble along with detectives to keep up with the action.

Hahn and Morales’ cases run the gamut of police homicide investigations. The detectives are called when an unlikable Professor of physics is found slumped over a supercomputer, his throat cut and the inaccessible room coated in blood. They also investigate the brutal stabbing of a young girl, where all clues point to her two-timing boyfriend until he also turns up dead. At the same time, they chase a group of murderous, gun-toting jewel thieves, and hunt down a sociopathic gangland killer. In spite of this heavy caseload, Hahn still manages to have time to develop an amorous relationship with one of the pair’s prime suspects.

And all this in just over two hundred pages! Stateham tries to create a realistic police detective story, in which cops are overworked and separate cases don’t always end up connecting neatly in the end. Yet, this strategy leads Stateham to experience some of the same problems as an overworked policemen- the work can get sloppy, attention to detail is lost, cases become less interesting and harder to keep straight, and some cases undoubtedly get more time and attention than others. This book badly needed an editor to catch some of the things that Stateham missed in his effort to keep up with everything the book juggles. It had an inordinate number of easily fixable problems, such as typos and awkward sentences, but not enough to really distract from the book. In the end, the author’s ambitious plans seem to have been a bit too much for him; although the back cover mentions four separate murders, by the end of the book I counted at least ten!

Despite the overly busy plot, Murderous Passions is an enjoyable read. Stateham’s characters, and especially his narrator, Hahn, are fun, even if they’re not particularly deep. The narration has a great voice and is entertainingly wise-guy, filled with a sarcastic humor that moves the book along. Yet Hahn lacks much of the introspection that would make him real for readers, and seems almost too good to be true. The descriptions of him as a well-read, independently wealthy police detective in peak physical condition, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Cary Grant, detract from the overall realism of the book and from the quality of the character.

As a mystery, this book is worth the read. The main case, that of the murdered physicist, is a classic whodunit that will keep you guessing, especially as Hahn’s romance with a sexy suspect builds. My only complaint is that while the mystery revolves around the work of the physicists, both suspects and victims, the science discussed is clearly lacking in depth, accuracy, or realism in a way that sticks out obviously to the layman.

In the interests of time, Stateham neglects many of the other cases, mentioning them much more briefly and failing to introduce alternative suspects or clues. The book sometimes seems more like a police-thriller than pure mystery, relying on action, humor, romance and drama to keep cases interesting to readers. Although sometimes things can be over the top, in general Stateham succeeds in making Murderous Passions interesting and enjoyable, if not phenomenal. Stateham has created likable characters and an interesting plot backed up by solid, if not perfect, writing. If Stateham chooses to make this the first book in a new series, later books undoubtedly have potential. Hopefully, Stateham will have more time to flesh out his characters and his mysteries by learning to be more selective and less ambitious in his plotting.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Rebecca Henderson for contributing her review of Murderous Passions and to B. R. Stateham for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Rebecca Henderson — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Two cops. Four homicides. One case involves a brutally murdered college professor who was hated by everyone. The result? Six thousand suspects. The second case has a dead farm girl, a dead giggolo, and a grieving divorcee. The third has jewel theives who like big-caliber guns. The fourth has a drug-crazed gang member who thinks he's bullet proof.

Just another day at the office for detectives Turner Hahn and Frank Morales.

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