Most of the author blogs I follow are in my RSS reader because I read the person’s published writing then looked up their blog. But there are a some blogs that I started following due to the interesting content and then learned the blogger is also a published author. Over the past few months I’ve been reading published books of these blogging authors based on the assumption that if I like their blog writing there’s a good chance I’ll enjoy their published writing too. Barbara Fister, who blogs about publishing other mostly book-y news at Barbara Fister’s Place, is the latest of these whose book I’ve tracked down.
As On Edge opens we meet Konstantin Slovo: a Chicago policeman who has temporarily left the city after his partner was shot on duty. Having no particular destination in mind he arrives in Brimsport, Maine only to discover, by being considered a suspect no less, that several children have been kidnapped and people are panicked. For many townsfolk the case revives memories of twenty years previously when accusations were made that a conspiracy of child abusers operated in the town though ultimately no convictions were recorded and the issue remains something that simmers uncertainly in the town’s collective consciousness. Due to his extensive experience investigating crimes against children (and probably because he’s just a wee bit obsessive) Slovo becomes involved with the hunt for the present-day kidnapper.
On one level this is a complex procedural tale about the search for whoever is taking the children of Brimsport. Local police, the FBI and Slovo use all their skills and knowledge but they’re up against someone who seems to be one step ahead of them at every point. Though this aspect of the story is interesting enough what I really liked were the murkier elements of the book. To me it seemed to be about events taking place in the grey area in-between the usually well-defined right and wrong of crime fiction. Is the former Police Chief turned child abuse campaigner right to be continuing his fight for justice for the victims of the earlier case or is he grandstanding on the basis of allegations he knows to be false? How far should the police go to gain a confession and will they know when they’ve gone too far? How much would it take to invoke a mob into vigilante justice and can you (should you?) stop them once you start? All these questions are asked in On Edge though you might still have to work the answers out for yourselves.
In addition the book has some deft characterisations. Slovo is multi-faceted and you’re never quite sure if he’s all he appears to be which makes him very interesting and he’s not surrounded by stereotypes either. I particularly like the cynical humour provided by his Doctor/drinking buddy Hari Chakravarty who pokes some gentle fun at both Slovo and the foreigner-wary town.
I won’t deny that sometimes I like my crime fiction to comfortably present a puzzle to solve with clearly right and wrong answers but hanging out in the shadows is more likely to have me staying up late to finish just one more chapter and pondering ‘what ifs’ long after the book is finished. On Edge fell squarely into this second category and it bodes well for Barbara Fister’s next book, Second Wind, which introduces an interesting-sounding female protagonist. I feel lucky that this book is already sitting in my TBR pile.
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Publisher: Dell Publishing ; ISBN: 04402375123; Length: 276 pages; Setting: Maine, USA, present-day
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On Edge is also reviewed at The Mystery Reader