With a title like this, it has to be a whodunit, right? Right? Not so fast. THE PERFECT SUSPECT is a suspenseful tale, yes, but the murderer is revealed on the very first page.
Ryan Beckman is a gifted police detective, the likes of which we’re seeing more of in popular culture these days (think Kate Beckett in Castle). She’s beautiful and smart, clever enough to succeed in a man’s world. Her heart, however, is painfully human and tragically flawed, as we learn when we meet her moments after she’s shot and killed David Matthews, a golden-boy gubernatorial candidate.
When Beckman is assigned to investigate the murder she just committed, we have the setting for a feverishly fast-moving and imminently readable story, at the heart of which are people, few of whom are what they at first appear to be. This is a story of secrets and the drive to keep them.
Investigative reporter Catherine McLeod is our central character looking to uncover, understand and explain these secrets, while keeping a few herself. This is Coel’s second book featuring McLeod (the first was BLOOD MEMORY), who is, at her core, similar to Beckman in many ways, thereby creating a perfect foil without being stereotypical.
Denver—and the areas surrounding it—play a crucial role in the story, and I felt slightly handicapped by my utter lack of knowledge of this part of the world. It was easy to look up the geography, but if you are familiar with the “tone” of Colorado, Denver, and its neighborhoods, I expect you’ll enjoy the story even more. Coel respects her readers, and she doesn’t over-explain, which I always appreciate, even when it means I have to work a bit harder at reading a story.
THE PERFECT SUSPECT is inhabited by characters who are clearly drawn, while leaving room for us readers to use our imagination. For those among you who work with or for media, I’ll warn you: The Journal, the fictional paper where Catherine McLeod works, is less than realistic in the details of how a modern-day newspaper operates. Given that this is a work of fiction, though, this didn’t bother me (much). The inaccuracies aren’t so grievous as to detract from the story.
THE PERFECT SUSPECT starts out as a simple, black-and-white/right-and-wrong tale, like a Picasso image wherein the pieces are all there, just in different places. Within only a few pages, though, it morphs to something more resembling a Gauguin, a story with lines, yes, but slightly blurry ones, and a depth that makes the story a pleasure.
Author’s Websitewww.margaretcoel.com

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