Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Prodigal Son, Colleen McCullough

Breath surrounding him in puffed clouds, John Hall put one not-quite-steady finger on the door buzzer and pushed. 

The Prodigal Son is an interesting mystery, scheduled to come out in November from Simon & Schuster. I thought that it was going to be a thriller, but I wouldn't classify it as that. If it is a thriller, it's not very good. It wasn't that suspenseful, and I wasn't on the edge of my seat. But as a mystery, I enjoyed it. It's pretty smart, and set in 1969, so there's no DNA testing or anything like that. Carmine Delmonico, the police chief, has to rely on fingerprints and other "old-fashioned" evidence.

In Holloman, Connecticut, a lethal blowfish-extracted toxin is stolen from a laboratory at Chubb University. The poison kills within minutes and leaves hardly a trace behind. Dr. Millie Hunter, the biochemist who has the poison, reports it to her father, Dr. Patrick O'Donnell. Partick's cousin is Captain Carmine Delmonico, and because of being notified of the theft, he knows the murders for what they are when the bodies start piling up. The first two murders take place at a dinner party and then a black-tie event. They seem to be linked only by the poison and Dr. Jim Hunter, a genius scientist and Millie's husband. He's a black man married to a white woman, and he's caused controversy before. Why would he be risking it all now? Is someone trying to frame him? Jim does have some motives for both murders, but so do several other people. Delmonico and his team must sift through fact and fiction to find the answer.

I said The Prodigal Son wasn't suspenseful. I did want to find out what would eventually happen, but the writing didn't make me need to read it one sitting. McCullough's certainly no Agatha Christie, but I still liked this mystery, mainly because the plot was really interesting and the characters were pretty well-developed. The writing was kind of terse in thriller-esque fashion, but somehow lacked the tension of it. But maybe that wasn't McCullough's goal, to be suspenseful. In any case, The Prodigal Son is good for what it is: an interesting mystery set in a small college town.

Read The Prodigal Son:
  • if you like Colleen McCullough (she's written other Carmine Delmonico mysteries)
  • if you like mysteries without violent killings
  • if you're looking for a mystery that won't make you stay up the whole night reading but will be enjoyable
305 pages.
Very Good! I would recommend this book!

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