“Tough, hip, visceral and lusty.” – Kirkus Reviews
Someone is killing illegal, Hispanic immigrants and leaving their bodies strewn like trash across Orange County, the playground of Southern California’s rich and privileged. But the murders go largely unnoticed, the anonymous, “Juan Doe” victims as invisible in death as they were in their hidden lives, toiling in low-wage jobs serving the wealthy…. until forensics specialist Samantha “Smokey” Brandon sees the gruesome pattern.
“A swift descent into sunburned decadence.” – Booklist
Smokey is an ex-cop and former Las Vegas stripper, a childless widow who has seen a lot of death in her job. But it hasn’t dimmed her compassion or dedication. These victims aren’t invisible to her. She won’t stop until she finds the killer, even if it means confronting her darkest demons and sacrificing herself to them.
“Moody, rich, impressive…the most distinctive new crime professional since Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta.” - Washington Post
The third entry in Noreen Ayres’ Smokey Brandon series originally published back in 2000.
Brandon is a former stripper, former cop and a long-time widow currently working as a forensic scientist. We have a series of murders involving Hispanic victims, initially unidentified and unclaimed. Brandon as part of a larger investigative team puts names to the victims and eventually in a somewhat fortuitous manner of convenience, gets a steer towards a possible perpetrator and motive from the grown-up son, David of her partner-cum-boyfriend, Joe (also a forensics expert).
A bit plodding for me and a little bit too much of Smokey, which because I didn’t feel anything towards her other than indifference, made the book drag. Leisurely diversions away from the case, de-weeding bamboo canes with a bunch of tree huggers didn’t help. Even if it did offer Smokey a potential rival to Joe for her favours.
David’s reticence to disclose what he knew, partly through fear, partly through fear of disappointing his father, also stunted the pace of the book.
In the end we got where we were going, and there were enough incidents along the way, including a massive bit of personal trauma through bereavement, to make the book an okay read, but not better than that I’m afraid.
On balance a 3 from 5.
I’m not driven to seek out the earlier two mysteries in the series; which are A World the Color of Salt (1992) and Carcass Trade (1994).
Noreen Ayres has her website here.
The Juan Doe Murders has been recently republished by Brash Books, who were kind enough to provide this one for review.