Thursday, July 4, 2019

“His Hand in the Storm” and “Kill Me Why?” by Ritu Sethi

It’s a new police detective series, set in Canada, and featuring a brooding detective trying to keep her personal demons at bay. And wherever Chief Inspector Gray James of the Montreal police goes, things happen, and fast.

James needs things to happen. Murder investigations are like an addicting drug for the inspector. They keep his mind away from the death of the son three years earlier, a death James blames on himself. His wife apparently thought it was his fault as well; she walked out on their marriage and disappeared. It had been a sailing accident in British Columbia; James and his son had been sailing and were caught in a storm. James survived with a damaged hand and serious guilt; the boy’s body was never found.

In His Hand in the Storm by Ritu Sethi, James is called early one morning to investigate a body found hanging in an urban beach park. He’s preparing to leave when his car is blown up, inside the perimeter of the crime scene. And that can only mean that whoever placed the bomb is connected to the police department.

The case leads James and his team, including Detective Sergeant Vivienne Caron, to a medical technology startup firm that’s on the verge of being sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. The CEO will let nothing stand in the way of the sale; the developer of the technology is determined to make the sale go away. And the IT guy will get himself killed, and others could follow. And someone in the police department hierarchy would prefer to see James dead.

Ritu Sethi
In the second Gray James novel, Kill Me Why?, James has transferred to Vancouver (to explain why gives away part of the climax of the first novel). He’s spending some time in his hometown with his father, when he’s convinced by the medical examiner (also transferred from Montreal) to look into a case involving a body farm, where a Ph.D. is doing work on identifying remains of bodies in various stages of decomposition. The townspeople aren’t thrilled with the operation, no matter what the benefit may be to forensic science.

The woman scientist running the farm claims to have found a body with its mouth sutured shut. Rushing to a phone to report the body, she returns to find the body gone. The local police doubt her story, but James does not. It’s a crime eerily reminiscent of one that happened in the same area 15 years earlier.

Detective Sergeant Vivienne Caron shows up, working undercover on an art smuggling case. James has to tread warily on the missing body case; he’s not been tasked with investigating. Gradually the two cases will converge.

Author Ritu Sethi won the Colorado Gold Award for His Hand in the Storm and was also a Daphne Suspense finalist for the same book. Both novels were Amazon bestsellers. Sethi blogs at Ritu Writes.

The Gray James books are police procedurals – but they are about as unorthodox as police procedurals can get. Each ends with a dramatic development, a smart move to make the reader look forward to the next one. Kill Me Why?, with its big storm, big mansion, and a killer running loose, veered a bit to the melodramatic. And getting the police team to Vancouver from Montreal was a bit contrived. But both novels are fast-paced stories, with interesting characters, and a back story that keeps returning to haunt the hero. 

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