Review: Deborah J. Ledford's debut thriller introduces North Carolina county deputy sheriff Steven Hawk investigating the circumstances surrounding a missing woman and a severely injured John Doe who may be involved in Staccato.
The "John Doe" is quickly identified as Nicholas Kalman, a 20-year-old world-class pianist who studies under the reclusive Alexander Kalman, the young man's uncle. The missing woman is Alexander Kalman's niece. Nicholas sustained life-threatening injuries one night when his car left the road at high speed and landed in a river. Though he survived, he has amnesia and claims no knowledge of his recent past. But his accident occurred on the same day his cousin, Elaine Kalman, disappeared. Deputy Hawk believes there is a connection between the two cases, but there's no evidence to link them. When a deadly fire claims the lives of a young man and woman, initially identified as Nicholas and Elaine, Hawk knows someone else is involved … someone who will kill to keep the truth from coming out.
Staccato is not only this book's title, but also describes how the plot evolves and the way in which the book is written. It's fast, to be sure, but also choppy, with frequent shifts in style and tone, even changes in plot, sometimes as often as between successive paragraphs. Virtually every character shares a point-of-view at some point, contributing to uneven narrative.
There are also many passages that make seemingly inconsistent, if not contradictory, statements. Consider the following:
When Alexander stormed into the music room after returning from the hospital, Timothy knew at once the visit did not go well.
Timothy took pleasure in Alexander's fury. One more step into the fire, Nicholas. Bad for you. Very good for me.
Now Timothy cowered as Alexander stripped books out of their shelves, and crashed yet another crystal vase.
It's entirely possible that in this particular case the author had intended to convey some sort of confusion for the Timothy character here, but it doesn't come across that way — pleasure and cowering seem to be incompatible states — and stylistically it's a mess.
Music is an important element to the story and particular classical pieces are frequently mentioned, but the author rarely provides context for them. Are they intended to convey fear, calm, excitement, affection, domination, submission at the time of their inclusion in the story? Probably all of the above at one point or another, but unless the reader is an expert in the field, the specific titles are likely to go all but unnoticed and unappreciated.
Staccato is the first in a trilogy featuring Deputy Hawk, who plays a relatively minor role here and is probably the most "normal" character in the book, though one who doesn't exhibit much confidence or convey much authority. (He holstered his weapon and called out, "Jessica, wait, I've got backup coming." Ignoring him, she started pulling herself up the rungs as if she'd conquered the challenge a thousand times. Hawk felt dizzy as he watched her fade into the shadows.) Maybe his next case will prove different.
Acknowledgment: Deborah J. Ledford provided a copy of Staccato for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Staccato: North Carolina
— ♦ —
Staccato by Deborah J. Ledford — A Steven Hawk Mystery
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: September 2009
List Price: $15.95