cover image Bad Blood

Bad Blood

P. M. Carlson, Pat M. Carlson. Doubleday Books, $15 (306pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42122-5

Carlson's eighth Maggie Ryan mystery, following Murder Misread , succeeds more for its insights into family dynamics than for its plot. The turbulent emotional conflict between Rina Marshall, a deacon's wife in suburban Maryland, and her mercurial teenage daughter, Ginny, is exacerbated by Ginny's awareness that she is adopted. Ginny runs away after lashing out at her grandmother and being scolded by aging widower John Spencer, guest of the grandmother's friend Marie Deaver. When Spencer's body is found near the town library, stabbed with Ginny's scissors, the troubled teen becomes a suspect. No one knows that she has fled to the Brooklyn home of her birth mother, whose identity she has surreptiously learned. Maggie Ryan, who as a teen had given up her infant daughter for adoption, poses as a reporter investigating Spencer's death and discovers that he was a small-time blackmailer who threatened several of Ginny's grandmother's friends, including his supposed romantic interest, Marie. The revelations of the real killer and the motive for murder are disappointing, although Carlson's realistic dialogue and compelling family drama provide reasonable compensation for the weak story line. (Dec.)