The backstory: After loving Long Gone (my review), a stand-alone thriller, and devouring Alafair Burke's entire Samantha Kincaid series (my reviews of Judgment Calls, Missing Justice and Close Case), I was eager to read Dead Connection, the first in her Ellie Hatcher series.
The basics: Ellie Hatcher grew up in Wichita, where her father was a cop and her mother still lives. Ellie and her troubled brother both live in New York City, where Ellie is now a cop. She normally works burglary but she's called up to assist in a homicide investigation of a potential serial killer using an internet dating website to target his victims.
My thoughts: From the beginning, Burke paints Ellie as a character to root for: "Ellie knew that a good, efficient detective—one who could prioritize her limited time in sensible ways—would act as a transcriber, file the report, and move on to the real work." This characterization is intriguing and introduces the tension between efficiency and thoroughness. When Ellie opts to follow her gut, she makes an impressive discovery.
Throughout Dead Connection, Burke balances multiple storylines, both personal and professional. Ellie is still coping with her father's death while chasing a serial killer. She's worried about her brother. She's solving a series of murders and sometimes makes reckless decisions: "You ought to be careful about that curiosity,” he warned. “You’re either going to wind up a hero, or dead."
I most enjoyed the mystery and the lingering mystery of Ellie's father's death. The scenes with her brother hampered the stronger storylines, but I see potential for future novels in this series to continue that storyline.
Favorite passage: "I consider myself a non-British, much better-looking version of Nick Hornby, so prepare yourself for endless conversations involving randomly inserted allusions to culturally significant popular icons such as the Clash, the Simpsons, John Waters, so-bad-it’s-good reality TV, and on and on till the break of dawn. Sounds fun, right?"
The verdict: Dead Connection is a fast-paced, smart mystery. Ultimately, I didn't enjoy Ellie's life outside of work nearly as much as I enjoyed Samantha Kincaid's, but the mystery is just as good, and I'm curious to see where Ellie Hatcher goes next.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 352 pages
Publication date: July 10, 2007
Source: purchased for my Kindle
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