Review: SINISTER INTENT by Karen M. Davis

SinisterIntentKarenMDavisEven if I hadn’t known from her bio that Karen Davis is an ex-cop I think I’d have guessed fairly soon after I started reading SINISTER INTENT. It’s not so much that the set pieces and procedural elements ring true (though they do) but that the ‘in-between moments’ have the air of authenticity that only first-hand knowledge can provide. She has captured the ever-changing atmosphere of this specialised working environment with skill; showing the adrenalin that accompanies the start of a major investigation, the doldrums that can follow when there is little progress despite everyone’s efforts and the tensions that can build up between colleagues working so closely together.

This depiction underpins the topical tale of a potential bikie war breaking out in the suburbs of Sydney as drugs a found in a gang headquarters then a gang member is shot and killed, possibly by someone from a rival gang. When trying to investigate the death of Bluey the cops from Bondi Junction are up against the famed bikie’s code of silence and must struggle for every snippet of intelligence and scrap of evidence while they try to ensure that there are no retaliatory violent outbreaks.

For me the book’s strength lies in the characters on both sides of the criminal divide. Lexie Rogers is the newly promoted Detective Constable who teams up with the more seasoned DS Josh Harrison to take charge of the case and they are both interesting. Lexie has a pretty traumatic past for someone not yet 30 which offers lots of scope for insight and further development) and Josh has a demon or two of his own though neither are irretrievably damaged. Rex Donaldson is effectively in charge of the gang at the centre of the troubles but thankfully does not display most of the stereotypical traits that our politicians would have us believe all bikies possess, though he’s no fan of the police.

I’m afraid I didn’t actually find the story itself particularly suspenseful but that’s at least partially due to my personal tastes. It has a much higher quotient of romantic entanglement and sexual tension (resolved and otherwise) than I normally like, to the point I felt it strayed a little too far into ‘chick lit’ territory (a term I don’t really like but what I mean is that I cannot imagine recommending this book to male crime fiction readers I know). The fact I thought the book too long is mainly connected to my boredom with this element of the novel. The other factor in me finding this book less than suspense-filled is that I thought the culprit(s) blindingly obvious from almost the very beginning. Normally I am fairly forgiving of this because I read more crime novels than the average reader and there are usually other suspects and sidetracks to keep me guessing but I truly find it difficult to believe anyone could read this book and imagine for a moment there was ever a chance of a different person being the main guilty party.

That said I did enjoy Davis’ depiction of the investigative process and her creation of a very believable environment and backdrop against which to set her story and I enjoyed meeting all the characters, even the unlikable but very credible ones like Rex’s insecure girlfriend Kate. The book definitely holds its own in the increasingly crowded romantic suspense genre and is a solid debut novel that demonstrates the author’s potential to build a real following.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster [2013]
ISBN: 9781922052520
Length: 431 pages
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