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PLOTS AND ERRORS
By Jill McGown

Ballantine, (September, 1999) Hardcover. $22.95
ISBN 0-345-43313-0

Reviewed by S. E. Warwick (12/99)

Crime novels are usually very tidy. Before the last page, we know who did what and why. We like to see the bad guys "get theirs." Psychologists speculate that this order is why crime and mystery fiction are so widely read. Readers have the illusion that there is some control over events.

Real life however, like the kitchen that produces the "perfect" meal, is rarely tidy. PLOTS AND ERRORS, the tenth outing of Detective Inspector Lloyd and his partner (in more than just solving crimes, as her thickening waistline attests) Judy Hill, shows how easily good police work could turn up incorrect hypotheses.

Five people die in a very short period of time in a variety of jurisdictions. Three of the five appear to be straight-forward suicides, the fourth a burglary gone bad, the last an unsavory character falling out with his usual bad company. Unhappy, unrelated events until little anomalies appear and a pattern emerges that connects all of the deaths. Like a kaleidoscope that shifts the entire picture every time the wheel is turned, the clues and evidence shift and turn until virtually everyone involved is suspect.

The motive is an old one, lots of money and a will designed to both reward and punish.

McGown writes the story in a loose play-like form breaking up the action into scenes. While you were always very sure when and where everything took place, the device was unwieldy and made the book too long (375 pages) but not so long that I didn't want to read the very last word.

Hill and Lloyd, and the other police, stayed in the background supplying the pieces missing between the scenes. Again, the device is a bit unusual, but like an unfamiliar dish at a new restaurant, worth a taste.


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