WINDY CITY DYING: A Marti MacAlister Mystery
Bland's 10th mystery to feature African-American detective Marti MacAlister (after 2001's Whispers in the Dark) provides plenty of family interest but is a bit light on police procedure. Marti and her husband, Ben, have relocated to Lincoln Prairie, Ill., a Chicago suburb, where Marti hopes she can escape big city crime as a "peace officer." But the release from prison of a vengeance-seeking criminal from her past dashes this hope. When 16-year-old Graciela Lara gets her throat cut, Marti and her partner, Matthew "Vik" Jessenovik, investigate. The tension mounts as Marti and Vik realize that several troubled children she once counseled, now in their teens, could provide clues to Graciela's murder. Marti and Ben's respectable suburban life, while far from uniformly rosy, makes a striking contrast to the precarious existence of kids caught up in the welfare system. Here perhaps more than usual, the author's well-drawn characters and their personal relationships overshadow the crime solving. The book's dark theme and grim portrayal of juvenile services won't be to every taste, but fans of challenging, socially conscious mysteries will be well rewarded. (Dec. 16)
Forecast:An attractive, arty jacket gives no clue to content, other than to signal an African-American heroine. Ethnicity, however, is not a major focus of the story. Handselling has no doubt ensured this series success in the past, and is likely to continue to do so.