Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Review: A Pointed Death by Kath Russell

A Pointed DeathBook Details:
A Pointed Death
By Kath Russell
Genre: Mystery
Published 2010, CreateSpace
Paperback, 333 pages
ISBN: 9781450563093

In A Pointed Death, biotech consultant Nola Billingsley discovers that one of her clients is stealing proprietary information from other startups. When the scion of a prominent Chinese-American family is murdered, Nola is convinced his death stems from his employment at the company pilfering scientific secrets. Nola seeks the identity of the killer and the destination of the purloined genetic data. Lanky fraud investigator Robert Harrison wants her to leave sleuthing to the professionals and leap in bed with him, but hardheaded Nola is convinced she and her band of biotech pals can solve the mystery. When the going gets tough and danger looms, she has her shorthaired pointer Skootch to watch her back as the action accelerates from lab to ocean's edge in San Francisco, the city where biotech was born. A Pointed Death is a funny, sexy who-done-it set in a smart industry, a 'Malice Corporate' unfolding in a town everyone loves but secretly believes is in need of its own twelve-step program.
I am not usually a fan of mysteries. They often seem like pre-scripted storylines with fill-in-the-blank characters and place names. Not so with this book. The mystery that Nola Billingsley finds herself in the midst of is set against a background of dot-com start-up corporations and the biotechnology industry. I was intrigued right away by the biotechnology aspects thanks to some education in biology myself. Russell often goes into the technical details of this thriving industry, which I think can slow a reader down who does not already understand much of this terminology.
Many of the characters are unique, if a bit cliche - such as Nola's southern belle mother, Janie Belle. I also found it odd that Nola mostly referred to her mother by her first name instead of simply calling her Mother or Mom. Nola's pointer dog, Skootch, often stole the show with his antics, but the plot seems to depend on Skootch's behavior for its progression.
Other parts of the book that I enjoyed for their own sake was the details that Russell used to bring the setting of San Francisco to life, such as the California cuisine. The polarization of Nola's choice of foods in comparison to her mother's southern cooking made for some interesting situations, and one scene at a crab festival had me salivating in jealousy. Russell is very good with details and descriptions across the board.
As for the plot, there was very little to disappoint. There was not much I could predict, no matter how many times I thought I knew what would happen next. The action was intense at times, but it was interspersed with bits of humor and romance to lighten the tension. Most of the subplots wrapped up nicely, with only a bit left over for a second book in the series to pick up. The only real question that I had that was never answered was what Nola's dot-com company actually did before it crashed. This likely was not relevant enough to the plot to be worth including.
On the whole, I was delighted that this book was a much better read than I expected it to be.

The Cover: The cover is a good representation of the book itself, with the Golden Gate Bridge to represent San Francisco, an image of DNA to represent the biotechnology, and a woman walking a dog to represent Nola and her pointer dog.

First Line: "The beefy hand of the liquidator, lifeline clogged with grease, sliced the air like a rattlesnake's head."
This vivid imagery to the opening of the book is quote intriguing, though it tells me very little about what is actually happening.

Favorite Quote: "Here's to the Typhoid Mary of Romance."

Read For: Of The Shelf Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*


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