Review: All That Glitters by Jane Gorman

This was hard to put down. Gorman knows how to craft a story, relentlessly raising the stakes for her protagonist, while weaving his personal life and the mystery plot together seamlessly. The Philadelphia setting is portrayed in depth without ever slowing the tempo; the details don’t intrude, but add color and intensity.

Detective Adam Kaminski has a passionate sense of justice and a strong connection with his family. When his sister becomes a suspect in a murder, he’s determined to prove her innocence even if he breaks some rules to do it. He makes mistakes, creating stress on the job, stress with his family, and stress in his already struggling relationship, while doing his best to follow his sense of what’s right.

I liked the balance between Adam and his calmer, steadier partner at work, Detective Pete Lawler, and enjoyed a new character who gets involved in solving the crime, a young ranger at the urban national park, Independence National Historical Park, where the murder takes place.

There are many plausible suspects, and I didn’t figure out which one was guilty until Adam did, though I tried. The final discovery of the killer is masterful, as Adam acts on intuition as well as his prior detective work. I congratulate Gorman on a dramatic confrontation scene that wraps up of the mystery plot without resorting to the canned this-is how-and-why-I-did-it confession so many mysteries end with.

As in any good series, there are aspects of the protagonist’s personal life that remain open-ended while the mystery gets closure. I wonder how Adam will cope long-term with what he’s so sure he can forgive. I wonder what he’ll continue to learn about his family history.

The only aspect of the book I didn’t like was the use of a few scenes in the point of view of the killer. This is a common device—the point of view of one nameless, faceless character while all other characters have identities and contexts—so I assume some readers must like it, but for me it breaks the flow and weakens my absorption in the lead character’s experience. When I read a mystery, I’d rather know only what the characters attempting to solve it know. Fortunately, there were very few of these anonymous-perpetrator-point-of-view scenes, and they didn’t hurt the book overall. I highly recommend this series.

You can find sales links for all retailers on the author’s web site, as well as background on the fascinating settings.

 

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Review: A Thin Veil by Jane Gorman

In this mystery with a thread of political scandal, the red herrings are as intriguing as the path to right solution. The explorations of the minds and lives of Washington D.C. residents—public personalities, behind-the-scenes influencers, low-level staff, and people in neighborhoods the power-players and tourists seldom see—give the book much of its strength. Jane Gorman does her research in depth yet never comes across as having to display her efforts. D.C. comes to life in all its dimensions as vividly and naturally as her Polish settings did in A Blind Eye.

Some of the new characters introduced in this book are worthy of their own series, should the author ever be so inclined: Ramona Davis of the D.C. police, her family, and her mentor Sam Burke, now in Diplomatic Security.

I’m a little concerned about Adam’s personal life. (Yes, I’ve become one of those reviewers who write as if the characters were real people.) That’s half of why we follow series, though, isn’t it? We like the plots and the way the mysteries unfold, and we also get attached to the characters.

http://janegorman.com/books.html

 

Review: A Blind Eye by Jane Gorman

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This is a cinematic, complex book, yet also tight and focused. The protagonist is a Polish-American Philadelphia policeman visiting Warsaw as part of a Sister Cities delegation. While there, Adam Kaminski hopes to learn more about his ancestry and culture, and wonders if he might even find relatives. Find one them does, and this leads him into an entanglement with the Polish police, members of the government, and dark secrets from the country’s past. His newly-found cousin, an investigative reporter, is certain that his daughter’s death, ruled a suicide, was in fact a murder. An idealistic and energetic young woman with a passion for politics and justice, Basia Kaminski may have learned too much about some high-ranking, influential people. Her father’s life is in danger as result of his inquiries into her death, and as Adam gets involved he puts his own life at risk as well.

Gorman knows how to pace for maximum effect and portrays her characters and her setting masterfully. She uses details of sight, sound and scent to create a powerful sense of the characters’ experiences. From the wintry streets and public parks to pubs and milk bars, from private homes of all walks of life to the halls of government and the deep recesses of the national archives, the setting is so alive it’s almost like a character itself. The romantic subplot is perfectly interwoven with the mystery, each dependent on the other.

One scene shifts to the perspective of a character whose point of view is not otherwise used, a choice that I found distracting, but that’s more a matter of my preference than a problem in the writer’s style. The quality of her research is outstanding. I highly recommend this book for readers who like political intrigue, dramatic locales, and mysteries with depth and substance.

To read more about her series and some fascinating background on this book, go to http://www.janegorman.com