212 by Alafair Burke


by Alafair Burke
Series: Ellie Hatcher, #3

Hardcover, 368 pg.
Harper, 2010
Read: February 25 – 26, 2015
It’s a law that in detective novels if you have two completely unrelated crimes being investigated, that one of the things the detectives are going to discover before all the pieces fall into place is that the crimes are completely related — one is very likely the cause of the other.* So, in 212 we start with Crime A, and then move onto Crime B — and sure, there’s a chance that A was just to reintroduce to this world, maybe show how Ellie and her partner are just frustrated in general, and maybe set them up for something. Maybe A is there simply to remind us all that she’s human and vulnerable and not perfect.

We leave Crime A for B. It doesn’t take too long before it’s clear that B is going to be the focus of the novel, and that frankly, you’d like the novel to be short, because you don’t want the perpetrator walking even fictional streets for long.

Right away, I started to wonder just how she was going to the the two crimes together, and by page 93 I was pretty sure that the theory I’d been percolating would be correct, and I was feeling a little clever. Which lasted a while, until Burke showed me that I was no where near to the right path. For my ego’s sake, I’m just assuming that an early draft matched my thinking but then she had a brain storm to make everything better.

As usual, this is nicely plotted, well-paced, filled with likeable (when they’re supposed to be) and relatable characters. Also typically, Burke nails a lot of the little moments. It’s this kind of thing that elevates this over other similar novels. For example, when the parents of the central victim are notified of her death, Burke’s description of the scene is striking. She captured the moment perfectly (at least, as I imagine it’d play out). Ellie’s speculation about the future of their marriage? Icing on a tasty cake.

There is one hefty Coincidence Ex Machina essential to the plot that stretches credulity, but somehow Burke pulls it off.

My other quibble with this is that Ellie acts too much like a super-cop for someone so young. I’m not denying that she’s got good instincts and that she should be given more credit than she frequently is. But Ellie isn’t Harry Bosch, she shouldn’t treat J. J. like Bosch does his partners. I’d really like to see her work with J. J. a bit more, take advantage of his experience more. I like Ellie, I think in a few years she would be NY’s equivalent to Bosch and then could be excused for treating her partner like an assistant (although, she’s mostly too nice to do that — another problem I have with this treatment — and no one’s ever accused Harry of being nice).

My complaints do nag at me while I read — but Burke’s plotting and voice are strong enough that I can push them aside until I’m done enjoying the book. Could this book be better? Could the series? yes and yes. But there’s little in the world that can’t.

A quick, enjoyable read — solid work that’s a little better than it needs to be.


* The Law of Interconnected Monkey Business talked about in the Gideon Oliver novels, applies in a special way to all mystery novels.


3.5 Stars


One thought on “212 by Alafair Burke

  1. Pingback: August 2015 Report | The Irresponsible Reader

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