The Best Defense by Kate Wilhelm is the second of her Barbara Holloway mysteries and in a word it is brilliant. Holloway is an attorney in Eugene, Oregon, who with some reluctance takes on the case of “Baby Killer” Kinnerman, a woman accused of murdering her young daughter. The case looks hopeless—Barbara’s client has already been tried and convicted by the press. Although grieving herself, Barbara rises to the occasion, and watching her slowly build her case makes for gripping reading. This was a reread for me, but I didn’t remember what happened at all and enjoyed The Best Defense just as much the second time around. Barbara is a great character: she is a strong and intelligent woman who is passionate about justice. This is Wilhelm at her best. If you enjoy courtroom dramas, you won’t want to miss this one.
It’s hard to review Careless in Red by Elizabeth George without spoiling any of the previous books in her Lynley/Havers series (this is book 15), but I will do my best (which means I won’t tell you much about the plot).
Devastated by personal tragedy, Detective Superintendent Thomas Lynley has been walking along the Cornish coastline for 43 days when he comes across the body of a young man who has fallen to his death. As the local police are short-staffed, Lynley reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation.
George’s strength is her ability to get into her characters’ heads, telling the story from multiple points of view yet still keeping her readers in the dark as to who did it and why. However, I often feel like her endings are a bit anti-climatic, perhaps because she focuses on so many characters and then inevitably drops them at the end to unravel the mystery. Careless in Red is no exception on both counts—although for the first time I found the characters a bit hard to keep track of at the beginning (which I attributed in part to their odd names). Because I was so deeply disappointed with With No One as Witness (book 13)—and skipped the next book, What Came Before He Shot Her—I was glad this book returned to more familiar ground. If you’re still reading this series, I definitely think this one is worth it—it satisfied my George craving and hopefully the next one will be even better. However, if you haven’t read any of her books yet or are reading them out of order, I’d recommend reading books 1-12 before any of the more recent ones.
Other review of The Best Defense (contains spoiler of first book): Jandy’s Reading Room
Other reviews of Careless in Red (all contain spoilers of earlier books):
A Work in Progress • Eurocrime • Mysteries in Paradise • Petrona • Reactions to Reading