I wrote a very short review of the first Annie Seymour mystery a few days ago. Now I've read the next three.
The books in order are Sacred Cows, Secondhand Smoke, Dead of the Day, and Shot Girl. It looks like they're all out of print, which is a damn shame. At least they're available as ebooks; that's how I got my copies (although I've also ordered used copies, and in fact I delayed writing this review until after I'd ordered them so no one would swoop in and get the last copy or anything).
I really enjoyed the books, obviously. I've also read and really enjoyed Olson's other mystery series (reviewed here). I think what I like most about both series is the truly fine characterization. None of the characters are flat or stereotypical; I care about all of them, even the ones I want to loathe. Olson keeps surprising me by twisting things around so I see the good in otherwise bad people and recognize the bad in people I like. It's subtle, nuanced, and doesn't slow the first-rate pacing at all. This is good writing.
Main character Annie Seymour, a journalist at the New Haven Herald, is cynical, bitter, and suspects she's as burnt out on her job as her coworkers think. As I said in the previous review, Annie's the type of character readers either love or hate. Some people will undoubtedly find her offputting, but I loved her. I found her bitterness oddly refreshing, and she's cynical without being sassy like so many mystery heroines. She's also extremely sharp--and frequently very, very funny.
Since Annie's a reporter on the crime beat, it makes sense that she keeps getting mixed up in murders. That's kind of refreshing too; I don't mind the mystery series where someone stumbles across a corpse in every book, but it does start to seem weird after a few books. Annie's just doing her job. The mysteries are well constructed, the plots complex but never confusing. And again, the pacing is excellent.
In addition to the mysteries, the equally important subplots and character arcs are just as important. Annie has to deal with her coworkers, especially the eager young reporter she's afraid will end up with her job; her hotshot lawyer mother, who won't give her anything on record and who's dating her boss; her cop ex-boyfriend and her private investigator current boyfriend; and many others. Most of all, though, Annie has to deal with herself. This is most obvious in the fourth book, where her ex-husband is murdered and she's suddenly confronted with parts of her past she's tried not to think about for years.
The fourth book gives such a feeling of closure that I'm not sure if Olson plans to write more in the series. I hope so, but I also don't want her to neglect her other series. Frankly, at this point I'm ready to read whatever she writes, no matter what it is.
Karen E. Olson's books at Powell's (where you can order used print copies of her books)
Karen E. Olson's books at B&N (where you can download ebooks for a nook if you have a nook)
I bought my e-copies through the Sony Reader store, and I'm sure they're available for Kindle and other ereaders too.