Powers delivers a page-turning police procedural with Death of a Matador, the latest thriller featuring Detective Grant Starr. The action takes place in—until now—a peaceful little dusty town in Central California. From the first page, the story plunges into the fascinating culture of the local Portuguese community, back-stabbing small-town politics, and the inner workings of a police department dealing with crimes related to current hotbutton issues: animal rights activism and the emerging corporate farming of medicinal marijuana.
Powers is a natural storyteller and the dialogue is especially entertaining. You feel like you’re riding along with the detectives and officers listening in on their good-natured ribbing, privy to personal and confidential conversations as they unriddle a sudden spate of murders and scramble to protect witnesses. The banter is rich with cultural lingo, convincing police jargon, and spot-on buddy-cop wit.
I also enjoyed the vicarious excitement of wheeling Detective Starr’s 1970 Ferrari along a California highway at 120 mph with gorgeous Detective Amber Whitehall riding shotgun! :-)
While the motivations of the corrupt mayor are fully explained, I’d like more insight into the mind of the matador killer. It’s understandable that most people like animals, and most people fear going to prison, but I feel that this villain puts himself in extreme peril as an animal-rights activist and as a criminal avoiding capture. I’d like a little more explanation into what makes him tick, what drives him to activism and allows him to be capable of such cold-blooded actions.
Also, I’d like to see Grant Starr put in a bit more personal danger. Sure, he gets shot at, and others rely on him to save their necks, but I’d like to see him sweat-it-out a bit more, to see him in more up-close and personal all-out, whup-ass conflict with the bad guys.
All in all, this story kept me flipping the pages with fully-formed characters, tight action and suspense, very little fluff, and a surprisingly exotic setting via the Portuguese community and their traditions. If you’re in the mood for a riveting detective thriller, I recommend it!
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