Review: Santa Barbara private investigator Jaymie Zarlin is hired by Dr. Rod Steinbach to confidentially look into the death of his grandson, who died after being stung by a particularly lethal jellyfish in a large holding tank, only to be paid off and then rehired by the dead man's parents to essentially do the same thing, in Black Current, the second mystery in this series by Karen Keskinen.
Skye Rasmussen was a volunteer at the aquarium run by his grandfather. Alone at the time of the incident, the police assume he accidentally fell into the tank while feeding the jellyfish … and Steinbach seems to concur. However, Skye's parents suspect he was pushed, possibly intentionally, into the tank, though they can't name anyone, who might have wanted to hurt their son. Jaymie takes the case over the objections of Steinbach, in part to help provide closure to the parents, something she lacks after the unexplained suicide of her brother in jail several years ago. Jaymie quickly finds out that Steinbach was not well liked by any of his employees, and not even by his own family, constantly interfering in their personal matters, including forcing Skye's girlfriend to get an abortion when he learned she was pregnant. Jaymie would like to consider Steinbach a suspect, but his alibi is solid. It isn't until a second death occurs, in a similar manner to how Skye died, that she realizes what she's missed seeing all along.
The core storyline of Black Current is solidly structured and developed, so much so that it's nearly impossible to determine whodunit even though the cast of characters — read suspects — is really quite limited. There is a fair amount of credible misdirection thrown in along the way, which complicates matters even further. (An interesting, and probably long forgotten until it matters most, preface provides a few clues for the reader, though not for Jaymie directly.) All well and all very good. There are, however, two elements that don't quite work. First is Jaymie's obsession with the death of her own brother. This subplot is more intrusive than not and doesn't really add much to Jaymie's already well-drawn character. The whole way this plays out here seems more contrived than not. There is a hint that Jaymie may be ready to come to terms with it at the end of this book, but it seems more likely that this will be an unresolved thread that will come up again in the next. The second element is not quite as intrusive, but doesn't fit either. Jaymie is in a love triangle (of sorts) with two men, who are competing for her attention. She alternately seems attracted to, and then indifferent to, both depending on what she happens to need from one or the other at that moment. This, too, more or less seems to come to its logical conclusion at the end, but there is a sense that it will reappear at some point. Overall, a strong entry in this series, particularly from a mystery plot perspective, but one that places a little too much attention on the ins and outs and ups and downs of Jaymie's personal life.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of Black Current for this review.
Review Copyright © 2014 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), June 2013
ISBN-13: 9781250012333; ISBN-10: 1250012333
Location(s) referenced in Black Current: Santa Barbara, California
— ♦ —
Black Current by Karen Keskinen — A Jayme Zarlin Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: June 2014
List Price: $25.99
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites