Settled Blood by Mari Hannah

As I said about book one, The Murder Wall, this is a solid mystery series. I like DCI Kate Daniels. The series seems inclined to paint her as your classic self-sabotaging detective: a loner, typically a hard drinker, soft-hearted but with a stony exterior and a tendency to violence. She’s rather sweeter than this, though. Despite points made about always putting the job first and not taking very good care of herself (eating & sleeping, for example), she has strong connections to the other members of her squad, and she’s not much of a drinker. The job itself can certainly be a killer, no pun intended (murder detectives do not have it easy), but as far as self-sabotage goes, she’s a pretty light version, I’d say. I like her habit of jumping on the motorcycle for stress relief, and I like even more her friendships: especially here with her second-in-command Hank Gormley, who has a pretty good feel for what she needs (to be questioned, to be left alone) and where she’s likely to be at a given moment. That is downright tender. Her relationship with her former (now promoted) boss, the prickly Phillip Bright, is a little less healthy, and he is not nearly such a sweetheart, but as character development and narrative complication I like it very much. There are other work relationships, too, that advance the characters and story in pleasing ways. As I said in the previous book, Daniels’s partner (now ex) is still a little under-developed, which I still regret. Will she continue to step forward into the light, or is she just a device? I will let you know, because I’ve already ordered books three and four in this series.

The whodunit itself was stimulating and kept me going through some late nights when I should have turned off the light. A murdered girl; a missing girl who is a lookalike to the murdered one but not in fact the same girl; and then more. Daniels is coming off a bit of a trauma herself – and in fact many members of her team are dealing with difficulties or losses, and I appreciate the way in which this mixes things up in a real-world way. Lots of questions about how much compassion and assistance is owed to people who are on the one hand jerks and on the other hand have suffered greatly. This ethical puzzle is one of my life’s fascinations, so I enjoy the angle.

Still true that Daniels’s identity as lesbian is a bit subtle as a framing element here. I appreciate the way in which that has a normalizing effect, but don’t come here looking for a big-deal LGBTQ headline; it’s more background. (Although Daniels is out to very few colleagues, which I find interesting. Her team seems practically warm-and-fuzzy in how well they support each other – unusually for the hard-boiled murder squad. On the other hand, her erstwhile partner being a distant member of the same work environment is a complication of its own, regardless of gender, and could justify secrecy.)

I am intrigued and interested to keep getting to know this group.

Rating: 7 headlamps.

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