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A Grave Talent by Laurie R. King
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A Grave Talent (1993)

by Laurie R. King

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
I enjoyed this right up until the predictable end. I would have given it a 4, if the book had ended better. ( )
  melanieklo | Jul 25, 2018 |
Understand why this won awards... not formulaic, quite captivating, excellent character development - looking forward to the next. ( )
  kmajort | Feb 9, 2018 |
What's It About?
The unthinkable has happened in a small community outside of San Francisco. A series of shocking murders has occurred, the victims far too innocent and defenseless. For Detective Kate Martinelli, just promoted to Homicide and paired with a seasoned cop who's less than thrilled to be handed a green partner, it's a difficult case that just keeps getting harder.

Then the police receive what appears to be a case-breaking lead: it seems that one of the residents of this odd colony is Vaun Adams, arguably the century's greatest woman painter and a notorious felon once convicted of a heinous crime. But what really happened eighteen years ago? To bring a murderer to justice, Kate must delve into the artist's dark past...even if it means losing everything she holds dear.

What Did I Think?
All I can really say for the book is that it's a decent mystery with the potential to have been a great new series if not for a couple of things that are fairly important to me in any book. The book was well-written, but not a very interesting mystery. There was way too much description from the landscape to the farm machinery to what everyone had for breakfast. That in itself distracted from any meaningful story-line.
There was also a way too obvious suspect and not enough believable development of some of the main characters. I really liked the character of Martinelli...but her partner who is supposed to be tough and demanding turns into a wimp in a couple of pages and remains so for the rest of the book. The main suspect is constantly described as more remarkable and special than just about anyone else on the planet which I found rather odd praise for a man that goes around killing 5 year olds'.

It's not by any means a horrible book...it just didn't quiet live up to it's potential. I've read other books by this author and found them to be so much better. Perhaps it's just "first in the series syndrome". ( )
  Carol420 | Aug 11, 2017 |
this is excellent. the writing is crisp and witty and sharp and so so so good. nearly (actually?) flawless writing, and would carry a book in any genre (and i'd read any genre written by her she's so good).

around halfway through i felt some of the mystery was a little lazily handled, as a good bit of information just fell in their laps, and came to the reader as a couple of longer monologues out of nowhere. but that's more than forgivable and maybe was done that way in service of the story's pacing. (which is maybe more important since this is more thriller than mystery?)

the writing in this book is so good that i almost didn't notice that the story is also well done. (less perfect than the writing - also lazy in that it seems so easy to fall back on a sociopath in these stories, among a couple other slight inconsistencies or annoyances - but this is her first book and it was still really intriguing, with well enough developed and interesting characters.) that matters less to me but when the two match up, or nearly do, it's a beautiful thing. ( )
  elisa.saphier | Mar 18, 2017 |
Originally posted at http://olduvaireads.wordpress.com/2013/09/13/a-grave-talent-kate-martinelli-1-by...

Three children have been murdered and Inspector Kate Martinelli is on the case. Unfortunately, not for reasons she’d like:

“…it was not amusing to think that she had been assigned to this specific case because she was relatively photogenic and a team player known for not making waves, that she was a political statement from the SFPD to critics from women’s groups, and, worst of all, that her assignment reflected the incredibly outdated, absurd notion that women, even those without their own, were somehow “better with children.””

And she gets Inspector Alonzo Hawkin as her partner, a recent LA transplant, the new guy thrown on this sticky case to save the necks of the higher-ups. He’s not exactly pleased to be assigned this young and inexperienced Martinelli but he has his own baggage.

So the bodies have been found in a close-knit, remote community owned by John Tyler. No electrical lines, no phones, cars allowed up only twice a week. And yet more than seventy people live there. Eccentrics, beatniks and what not, lots of families and kids, no one who really looks the murderer type.

Then again, there’s that reclusive artist, who, as it turns out, was convicted of killing a child many years ago. But Vaun is concealing an even bigger secret, for she is actually a world-renowned artist who channels the “pain and beauty of life” into her work. Naturally, she is a suspect, but when she nearly dies, Martinelli and Hawkins wonder if it is a suicide attempt or if she is being set up.

“Oh, come on, Al, that’s…”

“Farfetched? Yes. The work of a madman? That too.”

Kate began to shiver. “But why? Why would someone hate her so much? Why not just bang her over the head on one of her walks and make it look like an accident?”





There are many different threads running around this story but it all works thanks to the interesting back stories King weaves together, as well as the great characters she has crafted in Vaun, Kate and Al. And even a strangely charismatic murderer:

“He was very attractive, sexy, dark and dangerous, aloof . He exuded an aura of secret power. And he was an outsider, but by choice, rather than being left out. That was a feeling I craved, that self-assurance. Together we could look down on everyone else. I felt chosen, powerful, unafraid— even pretty, for those few months.”

And one of my favourite things about this book was the way San Francisco and the Bay Area glimmered throughout.



From lovely descriptions of its gorgeous – and famous – views:

“Of all views of the bridge that dominated this side of the city, it was this one she loved the best— still dark, but with the early commute beginning to thicken the occasional headlights that passed at what seemed like arm’s reach. The Bay Bridge was a more workmanlike structure than the more famous Golden Gate Bridge, but the more beautiful for it. Alcatraz, which lay full ahead of the house, could be seen from this side by leaning a bit.”

To the little details about life in the Bay Area, such as the occasional blackouts and its microclimates:

“In San Jose a huge area of the grid went abruptly black, and a thousand newcomers to Silicon Valley cursed and cracked their shins on the furniture as they searched blindly for flashlights and the stubs of Christmas candles. Old-timers just went to bed and told each other that it would be all over in the morning.”

“The rain began again an hour later, with that slow steadiness and determination that makes the natives of the Pacific coast check their supplies of candles and firewood.”

“It was a glorious day, San Francisco at her spring finest. The smattering of off-season tourists along Fisherman’s Wharf looked stunned at their fortune, having expected fog or rain, but the rains were nearly over for the year, and fog is a summer resident. The sky was intensely blue and clear, with an occasional crisp white cloud to cast a shadow across water and buildings for contrast. A fresh breeze raised whitecaps, but the sun warmed the bones even on the top deck. Berkeley looked about ten feet away, Mt. Tamalpais was at her most maternal, and a sprinkling of triangular sails studded the blue waters where Northern California’s more successful computer wizards and drug importers took a day at play.”

King, after all, is a third-generation Bay Area resident born and bred, having been born in Oakland and now residing in the Santa Cruz region. So she knows her stuff.

And this book solidly places King in my Read-Everything mental list. I love her Mary Russell (aka Mrs Holmes) series, and enjoyed her most recent release, Bones of Paris, and with the Kate Martinelli series, she has created another appealing female lead (and gruff but charming male sidekick – ok so they are partners but it really is Martinelli’s story) and King’s affection for the Bay Area is just contagious. If you have never read anything by King before, please give her a go! Her books are quite something. ( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
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Epigraph
Other sins only speak;
murder shrieks out.

—John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi
Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark;
and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales,
so is the other.

—Francis Bacon, "Of Death"
Dedication
for Noel

[Hebrew text]
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The first small body was found by Tommy Chesler one cold and drizzling afternoon two weeks before Christmas.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553573993, Paperback)

This gripping debut of the Kate Martinelli mystery series won the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery, generating wide critical acclaim and moving Laurie R. King into the upper tier of the genre. As A Grave Talent begins, the unthinkable has happened in a small community outside of San Francisco. A string of shocking murders has occurred, each victim an innocent child. For Detective Kate Martinelli, just promoted to Homicide and paired with a seasoned cop who's less than thrilled to be handed a green partner, it's going to be a difficult case. Then the detectives receive what appears to be a case-breaking lead: it seems that one of the residents of this odd, close-knit colony is Vaun Adams, arguably the century's greatest painter of women, a man, as it turns out, with a sinister secret. For behind the brushes and canvases also stands a notorious felon once convicted of strangling a little girl. What really happened on that day of savage violence eighteen years ago? To bring a murderer to justice, Kate must delve into the artist's dark past--even if she knows it means losing everything she holds dear.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:37 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

This gripping debut of the Kate Martinelli mystery series won the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery, generating wide critical acclaim and moving Laurie R. King into the upper tier of the genre. As A Grave Talent begins, the unthinkable has happened in a small community outside of San Francisco. A string of shocking murders has occurred, each victim an innocent child. For Detective Kate Martinelli, just promoted to Homicide and paired with a seasoned cop who's less than thrilled to be handed a green partner, it's going to be a difficult case. Then the detectives receive what appears to be a case-breaking lead: it seems that one of the residents of this odd, close-knit colony is Vaun Adams, arguably the century's greatest painter of women, a man, as it turns out, with a sinister secret. For behind the brushes and canvases also stands a notorious felon once convicted of strangling a little girl. What really happened on that day of savage violence eighteen years ago? To bring a murderer to justice, Kate must delve into the artist's dark past--even if she knows it means losing everything she holds dear.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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