RogerBW's Blog

Malicious Intent, Kathryn Fox 27 December 2017

2005 mystery/thriller, first in a series. Dr Anya Crichton is a forensic pathologist (divorced, ex-husband has custody of the kid) trying to build a freelance practice as an expert witness. But several victims she examines have some unexpected findings in common.

Bits of this work very well; others don't. Fox is herself a former general practitioner, and the medical stuff is solid: here's the finding, here's why it's significant, here's why it's potentially a matter for concern; here's how we go back and look for the same findings in other cases, and why they might not have seemed significant then. It gets somewhat repetitive at times but it does a good job of laying out what's what and why.

The mystery story is less good, particularly since a non-diegetic approach tells us that the bad guy will turn out to be somebody we've met in the book rather than a random stranger, and with that information there's only one candidate. And the connection to the original evidence is tangential at best.

The book's set in Australia, but apart from some place names and a couple of mentions of Aborigines there's very little to put it there. Sydney is really just The City with a new mask. Some Muslim immigrants from Lebanon are generically nasty and fundamentalist in a way that's frankly boring.

It's a shame that Crichton ends up becoming useless during the climactic confrontation. After all the evidence she's found pointing to the villain as a master manipulator, she doesn't once question her motivations or thought processes during the encounter she has with him. That makes her look stupid, and stupid doesn't make for an appealing series heroine. It also means the book ends on an oddly downbeat note, though it's quite an effective one.

Fox is apparently trying to write a gratuitous Nasty in the manner of Patricia Cornwell or James Patterson, but her heart's not in making it gratuitous, and as a result it works much better than it might have. Followed by Without Consent.

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