Friday, June 7, 2013

Under the Color of Law

This is my second Michael McGarrity novel featuring Kevin Kerney, who is embarking in this book on his new job as police chief in Santa Fe. I downloaded it to read during my trip to Santa Fe and it was a hoot to have the hero driving down Cerrillos and investigating at the College of Santa Fe (since closed), all very near to where I was staying.

McGarrity is an engaging writer and he captures New Mexico well -- and that is enough for me. Just as well, because there's not much else. Kerney, who debuted in Tularosa, which I enjoyed, is a bit more robotic in this book, though he was not particularly colorful in the other one. His improbable long-distance marriage to an Army intelligence officer doesn't really work on any level -- not as romance, not as dramatic counterpoint, not as plot device. In fact, it is more distracting than anything else.

The plot is also improbable. A Washington insider on the make mobilizes his minions to cover up his involvement with a new technology that will make him very wealthy. While a plot involving government operatives carrying out "sanctioned removals" seems less far-fetched every day, the depiction of the psychopathic hit person here is fairly two-dimensional. Ditto for Kerney's police cohorts, who greet their new chief with suspicion but are converted into loyal followers by his sagacious decisions.

The novel -- not quite thriller, not quite police procedural -- falls into a genre crack. Tularosa also had an adventure story element missing in this book. It was, as is generally the case with series, better than this new book.

Perhaps I'll read another McGarrity on another trip to New Mexico, or sometime when I'm homesick for Santa Fe. He provides a reliable read with a great sense of place for some easy-going relaxation.

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