cover image SECOND WATCH


Lowen Clausen, . . Signet, $6.99 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-451-20819-4

The second novel from former Seattle police officer Clausen (First Avenue) is equal parts police procedural and character study, and the two halves are balanced to perfection. Katherine Murphy, a cool, competent Seattle cop, has a new patrol, a new shift and a new partner: hard-as-nails Grace Stevens. When the partners discover the bodies of two children, sexually abused and placed in separate dumpsters, they become enmeshed in an undercover investigation that is chilling if far-fetched (readers may find it strange, for instance, that Katherine and Grace play more important roles in the investigation than the homicide detectives). Clausen devotes large portions of the narrative to character development, allowing his protagonists to become highly imagined characters with compelling desires and flaws. The supporting cast is fascinating as well: the tender-hearted Danish grocer, Rigmor, steals every scene she's in; and Dale, Kathleen's kind gay neighbor, is a voice of sanity in her increasingly insane life. Perhaps most interesting of all is Thomas Rosencrantz, a quirky, homeless intellectual who helps pinpoint the killer. This highly readable narrative moves more slowly than many books of its ilk, but readers will likely be too caught up in the characters' lives to care. (Mar. 4)