Thursday, June 12, 2008

Murder in Scorpio by Martha Lawrence

I started out liking this book, nominated for an Agatha, an Edgar, and an Anthony (all prestigious awards). Yet the author broke a Cardinal Rule in cozies (which I felt was a cozy) and I'm debating on whether or not I should let her slide on this one. A little rant on that later.

Dr. Elizabeth Chase is a paranormal investigator, meaning she uses intuition a lot in her investigations. Her first touch of intuition was seeing the ghost of a dead girl. Ever since then she has devoted her life to understanding her gift, earning herself two doctorates and a practice in Escondido. Enter Tom McGowan, who's high school friend recently died in a car accident. He's not too sure it was a car accident and wants Elizabeth to look into further. So she does and figures out the girl was murdered and why.

I have several contentions about this book. It started off very good, well written, good characters, nice pace, etc. Yet the further the book got, the more it fell apart. Elizabeth is supposed to be psychic, but there's very little evidence of her intuition or maybe Abby Cooper's spoiling me. I didn't "pick up" much on Elizabeth's intuition, she didn't even know when she was heading into dangerous territory. It could almost have been a mystery without the psychic element and yet that's what it sold as. Another element in the story which just fell apart for me was the language. Murder at the PTA Luncheon did the same thing. In the beginning there was an occasional curse word here and there, but towards the end, curse words were dropped like Krishna leaflets at an airport in the 80s. There was no need for that language in Wolzein's story and I can see the language being used in the drug world Lawrence set up, but she could have kept it off the pages.

The Cardinal Rule in cozies that Lawrence broke is she killed an animal (cat) in the story. A sane person might tell me: It was just a fictional cat, you read stories about people getting killed and you're upset over a fictional cat? True as that may be, there was no reason for the cat to be killed. What's even worse? The cat had been pregnant, gave birth and some jerk flushed her newborns down the toilet. The main issue is this wasn't necessary. I think Lawrence did it to show what a vile person the antagonist was (which she already had done) and to make the cat a martyr of sorts (which she had another potential unwilling "martyr" in the wings). I don't care if the main character mourned the kitty's death. Why did kitty have to die? Why? There was a six-year-old in the story in the same living conditions as kitty. If the girl had been killed or severely abused (she was neglected), there would have been outrage even though it's fictional. There was no reason for kitty to die.

I still debate on whether or not I should resume this series. I have a lot of books in my TBR and a lot of hurt to go through, so it might be a while if at all.


Amanda said...

I understand about the language thing, particularly if it feels like it's got no place in the narrative. I've done my own ranting about that.

I misread (for a second) your line introducing Tom McGowan, and thought you said he was an old high school friend who had died in a car accident, was not sure it was an accident and wanting her to look further. Sort of a Sixth Sense set up, one of the main characters is a ghost Elizabeth has tapped into. But then I read that it was a girl murdered and had to go back and revise my imagination.

Christina said...

Sorry about the confusion. The foul language and cat threw me.

I did read your rant about the language and agree completely. In this book, the foul language was used in dialog, which still could have been avoided especially because it wasn't the main character speaking.

Amanda said...

I take full responsibility for the confusion - I was reading too fast.

Even in dialog, foul language has to be realistic. Evil people don't necessarily swear every other word. The only people I know who swear like that are people who are trying to impress people or who are being "rebellious." It just drives me crazy. There has to be a reason you do everything in a book when you write, and shock-value is not reason enough in my opinion. Nor is trying not to seem old-fashioned.