Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.
Author: D.B. Martin
Publisher: IM Books, 2014
Following quickly on the heels of Patchwork Man, reviewed for Bookpleasures on October 7, 2014, Patchwork People is the second part of a trilogy in the “ingenious puzzle” category of English mystery. It is also a legal procedural, although almost all of the action in book two takes place outside the courtroom. The narrator, Lawrence Atticus Juste, is a barrister who, at age thirty, is becoming aware there may be more to life than professional accomplishments. Having found a way to preserve the freedom of a nine-year-old boy accused of mugging an elderly lady, he is confronted with the possibility that the child is his own, and that he may have committed incest. Someone else is interested who keeps dropping him notes that are threatening but also require further investigation. In hopes of clarifying his relationship to Danny, Juste has to find out more than he wanted to know about his impoverished large family, broken up twenty years earlier.
The question of paternity pervades the novel at one level while, on another, various siblings and childhood acquaintances are introduced more fully than in book one, and the man who has separated himself from their hardships begins to remember the happy days as well. In the middle of Patchwork People, though, things get a little murky –murkier than they ought to. Suddenly there is no one Lawrence can trust, not even the social worker he has fallen for. His closest brother may be a villain – or a pal. Their adolescent nemesis seems to have been related to his wife. The hit and run accident apparently was rehearsed with a dummy. And Danny disappears.
Lots of intriguing clues are left around the house or delivered by intruders who seem to have slithered through the keyhole. Imagine coming home and finding your study filled with rosemary branches – and still not being able to remember the object of a one-night stand. Imagine finding your dead wife’s evening gowns stored in the closet of your lover. Imagine a series of drawings of a murder that spells out your death by hanging.
For the record: My reading of Patchwork People was interrupted at 80% when my Kindle expired and I had to order a new one (expedited delivery). That meant I was especially confused when I got back to it. Still, for my taste, the plot line was not just challenging, it was convoluted and hard to keep hold of. I wanted desperately to be able to tie up some loose ends – but the author would not allow it. Finally, there was a strange denouement that complicates matters for the final book in the series, coming out next year. Also, I must complain that Martin’s prose, though often brilliant, sometimes presents ambiguities by sentences that are too long and need punctuation, e.g., “I was about to be weak and abandon the aspiration to join humanity I’d embraced as I’d mourned Kimmy’s death earlier when the walls seemed to bend and reality shifted.”
On the other hand, I quite liked her vignettes that showed Lawrence getting acquainted with his sisters, who are diverse, reflecting the different fates that befell them and how they dealt with one another. The settings her characters inhabit are varied, too, from Juste’s stylish mews home in Chelsea to his brother’s raunchy Soho nightclub; one sister’s upper class nursing home, another sister’s boutique, and yet another’s beauty parlor. Anyone who knows London will enjoy Debrah Martin’s details in describing familiar places in original ways.