Pinnacle, 2002, 466 pages, C$9.99 mmpb, ISBN 0-7860-1267-6
(Obligatory disclaimer; adjust the following review according to my acknowledged favorable bias for A> local authors and B> authors I’ve met.)
Fans of Rick Mofina, rejoice; the Ottawa-area thriller writer shows no sign of slowing down, turning in his third novel in three years. After the unconventional Cold Fear this novel is somewhat of a return to the settings, characters and conventional structure of his first book, If Angels Fall.
For one thing, Blood of Others is mostly located back in San Francisco, where the events of the first novel took place. For another, Blood of Others features the protagonists of Mofina’s first novel in a rather more active role than in Cold Fear.
As the story begins, a few months have gone by since the events of the previous novel, but things look a lit like they did two novels ago; Walt Skydowski is still the same irascible super-cop, though he’s making progress on the dating front. Tom Reed is still an overworked, underappreciated journalist, hated by his bad boss, hounded by his wife and once again on the prowl for a good story. He’s about to get a big one; the spectacularly ghoulish display of a murder victim leads him to an informant who claims to have seen the victim enter a police car on the day of the murder. Clearly, something is up and neither Tom nor Walt have any idea what they’re up against. Fortunately, another character looks as if he does, and by the end of the book, we can only wonder if the next novel won’t feature a third major recurring character…
It’s risky to talk about “an author’s favorite themes” after only three books, but risk has never stopped this particular reviewer in the past. Truth is, anyway, that several familiar elements do re-occur. The antagonism between the media and the police is still very present and personified by Tom and Walt’s antagonistic relationship. On the other hand, Tom’s complicated work/life balance is getting overused as a dramatic device. It would be about time for him to have a good boss and be able to write his articles without antagonizing his whole family. Maybe in time for the next novel!
Still, there’s no denying that Mofina is becoming better and better. The overall pacing of Blood of Others is generally more sustained than that of its predecessor, and the hair-raising finale is appropriately located at a San Francisco landmark. I wasn’t overly impressed by the antagonist in this volume, but then again I’m liable to unfavorably prejudiced whenever a character like that turns out to be a raving psychopath. (There’s also the whole bad-internet-bad! angle, but I need to lighten up about such things) Still, I wonder if the little time-bomb buried at the end of the epilogue will be used in Mofina’s next novels in the Reed/Skydowski cycle. Tick-tick-tick-tick…
In the meantime, have fun with Mofina’s first three novels. I’m impressed enough to put him on my short to-buy list, though I’ll be the first to admit that his stuff fits squarely in the crime-fiction mid-list, there isn’t anything wrong with that. At least you can rest assured of a good read; Mofina writes clearly and concisely and with more than enough suspense to keep you intrigued. A promising initial trilogy from a writer to watch.