Friday, June 26, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Voodoo Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Voodoo Laws by Jim Michael Hansen. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Voodoo Laws by Jim Michael Hansen

A Bryson Coventry Mystery

Dark Sky (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-9769243-7-4 (0976924374)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9769243-7-1 (9780976924371)
Publication Date: March 2009
List Price: $13.95

Review: A relatively routine homicide investigation Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry quickly escalates into a complex web of crime that may also include elements of the black arts in Voodoo Laws, the seventh mystery in this series by Jim Michael Hansen.

The dead man is an attorney with a law firm familiar to Coventry; a year ago an employee with the firm was found dead, a screwdriver thrust through her eye. But the connection between the two is even stronger to Coventry; in the dead attorney's home he finds a doll with a needle stuck through its eye. Separately, an attack on two women, one of whom was killed, the other kidnapped, also attracts Coventry's attention. As he investigates the murder of the attorney, he discovers links to the kidnapped woman and he knows that the longer she remains missing, the lower the chances he has of finding her alive.

Voodoo Laws alternates between three points of view: Coventry's, Mackenzie Lee (a practicing attorney, who is also trying to become a full-time mystery writer), and Dalton Wrey (a marketing executive, who does contract murder on the side). Eventually it is revealed that the common thread between each of their stories is the law firm of the dead attorney. And though the author is known for his carefully constructed, intricate plots, in Voodoo Laws the storyline is overly elaborate, complicated to the point of being nearly incomprehensible. Coventry actually has very little to do, being rather obsessed with the new woman in his life; his story arc is the least interesting of the three. Some of the events that take place seem unusual, random even, but are eventually explained. But that's part of the problem here; it's not possible for the reader, or even any of the main characters, to figure out why they're happening; secondary, minor characters have to, in the end, explain what went on and why.

The characters themselves are well-developed and interesting, but all share a most annoying trait: they chuckle. All the time, and at the most inappropriate times. Every 3-4 pages someone chuckles. Not laughs, or giggles, or snickers. Chuckles. Occasionally someone grins, but almost always just before or after they chuckle. There's something quite incongruous, for example, when two killers are having a discussion about their next victim and one chuckles. And unlike "said" or "asked", which are often easily overlooked by readers, "chuckled" is a verb that is hard to ignore. Especially when it's most often used in a two word paragraph. "Coventry chuckled." "Mackenzie chuckled." "The pirate chuckled."

Though Voodoo Laws isn't Hansen's best novel in the series, it still has quite a lot going for it. There's very little extraneous narrative or dialogue to weigh it down, the characters frequently do unexpected things that keep the reader's attention and interest, and the plot, though unnecessarily complex, is still gripping and absorbing. This is a fine series and one worth checking out.

Special thanks to Jim Michael Hansen for providing a copy of Voodoo Laws for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Denver homicide detective Bryson Coventry is thrust into his most haunting and eerie case yet in Jim Michael Hansen's stunning new thriller, Voodoo Laws. As Coventry frantically searches for a missing woman and finds himself pulled deeper and deeper into an edgy world of voodooism and death curses, beautiful young attorney Mackenzie Lee takes on a terrifying case--a case born of shadowy origins; a case prone to shift with the night; a case that is destined to sweep everyone who touches it into the spiraling vortex of a deadly thriller.

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