Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mystery Book Review: Life Blood by Penny Rudolph

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written a review of Life Blood by Penny Rudolph. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.Life Blood by Penny Rudolph

Life Blood by
A Rachel Chavez Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-346-9 (1590583469)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-346-3 (9781590583463)
Publication Date: September 2007
List Price: $24.95

Synopsis (from the publisher): Rachel Chavez, a recovering alcoholic, owns and lives in an apartment on the top floor of a parking garage in downtown Los Angeles. She leases parking space and the use of the rooftop helicopter pad to nearby businesses. Tough but vulnerable, she is struggling to stay sober and keep her business afloat.

Rachel is horrified when she discovers two young Mexican boys locked in an apparently abandoned van in the garage. She rushes them to the emergency room. Doctors declare one dead on arrival. The other, dehydrated but alive, is admitted to the hospital. But when Rachel checks back the next day, the Medical Center has no record of either child.

Wary of the police because her own checkered past includes a DWI and arrest for drug possession, Rachel is obsessed with finding an explanation. Meanwhile, Hank, a workaholic water quality engineer, wants to marry her when his divorce is final. But now Rachel, enmeshed in her search for answers and her own Mexican roots, isn't certain marriage is for her.

When the hospital leases parking space in her garage for staff, she believes her life is finally on track. But instead it's just becoming more complicated ... and dangerous.

Review: Los Angeles parking garage owner Rachel Chavez finds herself involved in the activities of a mysterious hospital in Life Blood, the second entry in this series by Penny Rudolph.

Life Blood starts out with an intriguing premise. Rachel finds two children in an apparently abandoned van in her garage. Rushing them to the nearest hospital, she's informed that one is dead and the other alive in critical condition. Returning the next day to follow up on the one that survived, she's told there is no record of two children having ever been there the day before, dead or alive. When she continues to investigate on her own, she's accused of stealing a controlled substance from the hospital and arrested. Later, an attempt is made on her life. She's convinced that the two missing children are the key to understanding why someone wants, at a minimum, to see her in jail or worse, dead.

Following a strong opening, however, Life Blood rapidly loses its way. Part of the problem is in the shifting points of view that add no real value and have the unfortunate effect of specifically lessening any mystery associated with the hospital and its staff. In addition, there are oddly placed and completely irrelevant side stories dealing with Rachel's father. There are also attempts at injecting elements of a medical suspense thriller here and there but none are successful.

Rudolph challenges the reader of Life Blood with a couple of fundamental questions. Does the end result justify the means? Is there a greater good? There is never an easy answer to either one, but in the case as presented in this book, it should be an unequivocal and resounding no. It is shocking, therefore, that in the end Rachel not only calmly accepts the situation, but makes a seriously flawed decision that not only makes her complicit in the crimes being committed but a moral hypocrite as well.

It is rare that a book starts so promisingly yet ends so poorly. Life Blood is a disappointment in every sense of the word.

Special thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of Life Blood for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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