cover image Night Work

Night Work

Laurie R. King. Bantam Books, $23.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-553-10713-5

The multitalented King (O Jerusalem, etc.) has not published a Kate Martinelli novel since 1996's With Child, so fans aplenty have been waiting for the next installment in this acclaimed series. San Francisco police detective Kate and her partner, Al Hawken, first introduced in the Edgar-winning A Grave Talent, have been called in to investigate the murder of a man who turns out to have a long record of beating up his wife. The wife, who took refuge at a battered women's shelter, has a rock-solid alibi and there are no other obvious suspects. Meanwhile, a group of feminist vigilantes called the Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement has been exacting wickedly funny acts of minor revenge against men who physically abuse women. Kate has a sneaking sympathy for the work of the Ladies, but when more bodies of abusive men start turning up, it looks as though someone--some woman--in San Francisco has taken the ultimate step in vengeance. King brings her theme of women's rage against abusive men together with a focus on goddess worship, especially in Indian religions. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction and creation, figures largely in this dense and suspenseful tale. As in her powerful thriller A Darker Place, King's ability to turn esoteric religious concepts into key narrative points makes this a highly unusual--and memorable--novel. It suffers a bit from talkiness, but even so, it's a compelling, effective piece of writing. (Feb.)