Wednesday, November 30, 2022

C.S. Poe - Madison Square Murders

Everett Larkin works for the Cold Case Squad: an elite—if understaffed and overworked—group of detectives who solve the forgotten deaths of New York City. Larkin is different from others, but his deduction skills are unmatched and his memory for minute details is unparalleled.
So when a spring thunderstorm uproots a tree in Madison Square Park, unearthing a crate with human remains inside, the best Cold Case detective is assigned the job. And when a death mask, like those prominent during the Victorian era, is found with the body, Larkin requests assistance from the Forensic Artists Unit and receives it in the form of Detective Ira Doyle, his polar opposite in every way.
Factual reasoning and facial reconstruction puts Larkin and Doyle on a trail of old homicide cases and a murderer obsessed with casting his victims’ likeness in death. Include some unapologetic flirting from Doyle, and this case just may end up killing Everett Larkin.

Comment: As it often happens, I've added this one to my TBR after seeing positive reviews in one or two sites, especially since one of the main characters seems to have some distinctive personality feature.

In this book we meet detective Everett Larkin, who has HSAM (highly superior autobiographical memory or hyperthymesia) and although this helps him solving cases in his Cold Case department, sadly it affects every aspect of his daily life, for on the other side of the equation he can't remember recent things that easily, which affects his relationships with others and with his husband too. The story begins with a new case, and to help him discover the identity of the person whose bones were found with a death mask, he asks the help of detective Ira Doyle, from the Forensic Artists Unit. It seems Doyle is the complete opposite of Larkin but as he soon finds out, sometimes to have the right partner can make the whole difference... as long as they can solve the case before more trouble comes their way...

In general, I did like this book and the characters and the interesting content but, thinking about the big picture, something I can't fully pinpoint stops me from loving the work.
This is the first story I try by this author and I found the writing style to be appealing enough and with many details which I bet the author has investigated or has knowledge of, and that gave the story a certain realistic vibe, such as the details about the memory condition Everett has or the information on art and forensics...

All this made the story feel formal, in the sense I believed the need for tasks performed and the steps taken in order to accomplish certain things. I can only imagined the author tried to keep things as serious and realistic as possible and when it comes to the kind of "real life" content used, I have to trust the data used is reliable and true. I think a lot of effort went into this and I liked the interesting new things I was able to learn.

As for the fictional plot...the investigation of the body found as soon as the story begins and the following investigation and such, all that felt intriguing enough but I must confess the constant mix of professional tasks and personal thoughts by Everett - we only have his POV, third person narrator - sometimes became too blurred and I struggled to be completely focused on what was happening. Perhaps this is what I liked less but I can't really say this is negative, it doesn't distract that much from the plot's development.

Of course the characters are what makes this a compelling read for most of the time. Everett is a good observant and a lot we learn is inferred by is thoughts or comments but I mut say there were times I think having Doyle's POV might have helped. I think they are made to be a good working team and I think their personalities are different enough to make them a likely complementing couple, now only as two partners at work, but probably with a potential romance in the future.

Everett is the narrator and he is certainly fascinating, and not only because of his memory issue. He is a person who feels things but his husband is portrayed as not welcoming or a true partner and I think this relationship happens to create a model comparison to what his relationship wit Doyle will be like, but also to sort of give a context as to why Everett is a bit more vulnerable than what others think they see. There are things about him we learn step by step and some aren't fully explained which, I assume, will provide content for the next novels.

Doyle might not be as incisive or detail oriented as Everett, but he is a smart and creative person, and the things we are told about him make him a very intriguing person. I mean, he isn't hiding this big secret I think, but there's more to him which wasn't shared in this book, and that means the relationship with Everett will also be a work in progress. So far, he seems clever and funny but I bet his past disappointments and losses will also be developed further.

The resolution of the plot was more complex than what I thought it would and obviously the author has this defined idea about how to do things. Still, since the attention is divided between romance and plot in a very distinctive manner, I can't help but feel there are moments were the two things don't mesh as "organically", lets say so, as I think was least not for me. I hope the next one, which I will certainly read too, will be a bit more effective in all regards.
Grade: 7/10

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