Silent Scream by Karen Rose (Grand Central Publishing)
Justice in June by Barbara Levenson (Oceanview Publishing)
Justice in June and Silent Scream have more in common than alliterative titles. Each is a mystery/thriller set in a major U.S. city with a female protagonist that is devoted to her profession but has difficulty committing to a permanent relationship. The cities where the action takes place are Miami, Florida and Minneapolis, Minnesota, respectively. Both women are well-respected members of their communities.
Mary Magruder Katz is a criminal defense attorney in Miami who briefly struggles with her revulsion at representing a man who is being characterized as a terrorist. Her current boyfriend is Carlos Martin, a wealthy real estate developer with an excitable Latin-American temperament.
Detective Olivia Sutherland, over in Minneapolis, is the only female member of the city’s elite homicide squad. Olivia and her partner are assigned to a construction fire when the charred remains of a teenage girl are found among the ashes. To complicate matters, Olivia must work with fireman David Hunter while investigating this and similar subsequent fires with murder victims. David is not just any fireman; he’s a genuine hero who works tirelessly on behalf of battered women and he had a weekend encounter with Olivia that still troubles her after two and a half years.
Here is where the authors’ styles set these books apart. Barbara Levinson, author of Justice in June, is a member of the judiciary in Miami. This is her second novel. The crisp, spare descriptions of the characters and location provide more information about the local weather and scenery than they reveal about the feelings that Mary and Carlos have for each other. Mary’s lack of true trepidation following an attack and a break-in at her house are confusing. Levinson’s writing seems to derive from the transcription of a journal or legal case notes.
The story is engaging from a legal perspective. It is a book that would make a good selection for a young person who is entertaining thoughts of pursuing a legal career. However, there are moral challenges to the justice system in this tale that are guaranteed to disillusion the most starry-eyed future attorney or judge. This reviewer was amazed that a story set in steamy Miami is so dry and passionless.
Karen Rose, the author of Silent Scream, has penned 10 prior novels. Rose, like Levinson, is a resident of Miami; yet she has elected to write about Minneapolis, a city that to this reviewer seems short on passion with a surplus of lakes. Rose’s history as a writer goes back to her childhood when she was an avid reader and began writing for her own enjoyment.
Rose has a well-developed writing style that is lush and highly descriptive. Her novels are labeled as “romantic suspense.” I was a bit skeptical about just how romantic the story would be. Bodice rippers are plentiful but a well-written story is another matter. This is clearly a book for mature audiences; although, given the sex on TV shows and in movies that teens are now daily exposed to, it is relatively tame. What’s unexpected is the meticulous character development. Heroes and villains alike are given ample background, motivation and feelings.
Knowing there are 10 prior books by Karen Rose to read while waiting for her next effort makes the waiting all the better. Sorry Judge Levinson, this reviewer needs more than just the facts, ma’am.
Take Away: Silent Scream, in paperback, is the one to read this summer. Recommended.