Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico by Steven Torres

Mysterious Reviews: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller and Crime Novel Reviews, edited by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

A Luis Gonzalo Mystery

St. Martin's Minotaur (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-312-32113-9 (0312321139)
ISBN-13: 978-0-312-32113-0 (9780312321130)
Publication Date: March 2010
List Price: $24.99

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Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico by Steven Torres
Buy Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico by Steven Torres

Review: Sheriff Luis Gonzalo investigates the circumstances that led to the brutal beating and rape of a 16-year-old girl in Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico, the fifth mystery in this series by Steven Torres.

Gonzalo is awakened in the middle of the night by screams coming from the street. Quickly locating their source, he finds a local girl, Luisa Ferre, naked and badly bruised. Asking his wife to take Luisa to the hospital, he comes to the conclusion that if he can find the girl's clothes by backtracking in her steps, he'd find the crime scene ... and maybe have someone under arrest within a short period of time. His deputy had seen her just a few hours earlier at a party that he'd broken up, and Gonzalo sends him there as an alternate starting point for their investigation. But neither man can help consider that her drunken father may ultimately be the one arrested for the crime. With no physical evidence to prove his guilt, however, and with Luisa refusing to name her attacker, Gonzalo and his deputy discover their task is much harder than he initially thought.

Written in a rather spare, somewhat minimalist, manner, Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico is at its best depicting the people involved with, the rural setting of, and the inevitable politics underlying a criminal investigation in Puerto Rico. The story is told from the author's perspective as narrator:

As [Deputy] Collazo based his opinion of the case on his recollection of Ferre's disposition in the hours before the attack, we should review the actions of the previous night before joining Sheriff Gonzalo in the fields of the valley.

This stylistic approach only works up to a point. Regardless of the character's point-of-view, there is always a sense of detachment, that someone else is telling the story. That the author keeps the focus on the investigation itself, though, helps keep the reader engaged. In the end, Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico has a well thought out and developed plot with an unanticipated conclusion, two elements that typically result in a competent and satisfying crime novel.

Special thanks to St. Martin's Minotaur for providing a copy of Blackout in Precinct Puerto Rico for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): It’s Friday night when sixteen-yearold Luisa Ferré stumbles into Sheriff Luis Gonzales’ path—naked, battered, and so traumatized she won't say a word. Between partygoers and out of towners, it isn’t long before the list of suspects begins to grow.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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