Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Friday, June 21, 2013

Blood Orange by Karen Keskinen, a review for Feminist Fiction Friday

Reading BLOOD ORANGE will give you a tingle--that tingle you get when you read a book by an author that's new to you and you realize right away that you are going to love the book and the characters and the writer. Karen Keskinen's debut mystery opens with a horrific crime and then plunges us into the complicated life of Santa Barbara private detective Jamie Zarlin. Jaymie's just barely paying the rent on her office when the formidable Gabi shows up. Her schizophrenic nephew has been arrested for the rape/murder and she is convinced he didn't do it. Jaymie is skeptical, but she's still grieving the death of her own mentally ill brother and she doesn't have the heart to say no to Gabi.
Not that Gabi is giving her the option.
Jaymie's ensuing investigation brings her closer to two men who are both very interested in being closer to her, a sexy cop who's got marriage on his mind and an even sexier attorney who operates just on the right side of sleaze. (And yes, if this reminds you of the love triangle in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books, that's probably not an accident although Keskinen's characters seem a bit more real and Jaymie's reasons for holding back her commitment seem to be more solid than Stephanie's.)
The Santa Barbara of the book is at once the lovely beach town beloved of tourists and home to an upscale community and a place of dark alleys and shadowed corners where gangs lurk and violence has a racial edge. The mystery itself is extremely complicated, even convoluted, but it's also setting up a world where race and class permeate everything that takes place.
Keskinen's got a real knack for character and the characters who are going to be "regulars" in the series are definitely people we want to see again. Those who may just be passing through for this one story--like the murdered girl's tough-talking little sister and a wealthy old woman who is sharper than everyone around her and has no problem letting them know it--are vivid and memorable.
The death of a beautiful young woman during a solstice festival is only the beginning of the mysteries here and BLOOD ORANGE is only the first of what I hope will be many mysteries "starring" Jaymie.

Here's an interview with Keskinen.

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