Gail Bowen, winner of the 1995 Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel for her last Joanne Kilbourn mystery, A Colder Kind of Death, is back - with her most daring mystery to date.
In the horrifying opening paragraph of A Killing Spring, Reed Gallagher, the head of the School of Journalism at the university where Joanne Kilbourn teaches, is found dead in a seedy rooming house. He is dressed in women's lingerie, with an electric cord around his neck. Suicide, the police say. A clear case of accidental suicide. But for Joanne, who takes on the thankless task of breaking the news to Gallagher's wife, this death is just the first in a series of misfortunes that rock her life, both professional and personal.
A few days after Gallagher's death, the School of Journalism is vandalized - its offices and computers are trashed, and homophobic graffiti is sprayed everywhere. Then an unattractive and unpopular journalism student in Joanne's politics class stops coming to school after complaining to an unbelieving Joanne that she's being sexually harassed. Clearly, all is not as well at the university as Joanne had thought. Nor is all well in her love life after the casual racism of a stranger drives a wedge between Joanne and her lover, Inspector Alex Kequahtooway. To make matters worse, Joanne is unceremoniously fired by her best friend from the weekly political panel on Nationtv, which she's being doing for years.
Badly shaken by these calamities, Joanne struggles to carry cheerfully on. Action, she knows, is better for her than moping. She decides to find out why her student has stopped coming to class, and in doing so, Joanne steps unknowingly into an on-campus world of fear and deceit and murder.
I’m forever eagerly waiting for audible and Post Hypnotic Press to release the next book in this series, which has fast become one of my favourite audiobook series (kudos also to Lisa Bunting for her excellent narration).
What I like about these books is not only the mystery per se (even though the present one is among my favourites of the five books I’ve read so far, it’s almost secondary) but the way we have been gradually getting to know Joanne, her history and her friends and family. I love the detail we hear about daily life at the Kilbourn house that paint such a vivid picture. Take, for example, this description of preparing the house for Easter guests:
“Angus and I made up the beds, got out the new bath towels and brought the leaves from the dining room table in from the garage. Taylor and I drove out to the nursery and bought lilies and a pot of African violets the colour of heliotrope for Mica and Greg’s room.”
None of this is even remotely relevant for solving any crimes, of course, but I greatly enjoy listening to it – as well as about the times Joanne just can’t be bothered and orders takeout. If this is not your kind of thing, then probably these books are not for you. If it is, don’t start here but get “The Deadly Appearances” first.