Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Chalon Heads by Barry Maitland

The Chalon Heads is the fourth book in the Brock and Kolla series. I hadn't intended to read it right after the third one, but I couldn't stop myself. I've got the fifth book lined up but will try to control myself.

I didn't wholeheartedly love the third book, but The Chalon Heads was much stronger. Kathy Kolla and David Brock are called in to investigate the kidnapping of a rich stamp collector's young wife. The ransom notes each come with a rare stamp cut in pieces. The trouble is, the stamp collector is well-known to Brock as a tricky, manipulative man with an unsavory past. He and Kathy don't know how much they can trust him about anything, even the kidnapping.

The plot is clever, if not as intricate as some of the previous books' plots. I loved the uncertainty about what crime has actually been committed and who is actually the victim. And there are a few twists in plot and character that really surprised me, in a good way--and even more revelations at the very end, which I expected (but still didn't see coming). It's a great mystery.

The theme of sexism does keep popping up in the series. I appreciate this, especially since it doesn't take over the books. I do wish that it was more realistic, though. If sexism in real life was as blatant as it is in these books, it would be easy to call people on it. But it's fiction, and fiction exaggerates.

While I did enjoy the book, at three times during particularly fraught scenes the narrative switches to present tense. I'm sure Maitland did this to make the action more immediate. But OMG, I was so frantically furious at being thrown out of the story by a tense change during the juiciest parts of the book! I really, really hope that this was a one-time experiment and doesn't pop up in the other books.

B&N link


Kelly Robinson said...

The tense change thing would annoy me too. I see a lot of self-published novels in present tense and it only adds to their amateurishness, I think. Odd to see a decent writer make that choice.

K.C. Shaw said...

I hate present tense so much. After I finished reading this book, I actually dreamed that the next one was all in present tense. Fortunately it wasn't. :)