Discerning Reader Editorial Review
Reviewed 04/03/2012 by Mark Tubbs.
Recommended. A fine literary mystery novel that delivers in every way, especially in the aspect of characterization.
Definitely not for the squeamish, Pattern of Wounds picks up where Detective Roland March left off in Back on Murder, the inaugural book in this mystery series from Bethany House Publishers. If you have not read the first book, do not pass go, do not open the front cover of the second book. A few Amazon reviewers have done so and have paid dearly - they did not enjoy the second book. It is a series and is meant to be read as such. And a fine series it is, thus far.
Roland March, a surly but intriguing Houston Police Department homicide detective, is "back on murder" after redeeming himself in the first book. Patterns of Wounds opens with a brutal murder scene (caveat lector to the sensitive reader) which evokes the mood of the best crime dramas television has to offer.
Where Pattern of Wounds exceeds its predecessor is in its characterization. Whereas I felt a bit alienated from Charlotte, March's wife, and Teresa Cavallo, March's sidekick in Back on Murder, both women evoked a fresh sympathy in me this time around. Similarly, March's own complexities developed further, although he still can't seem to help being a jerk most of the time. Even the secondary characters don't come across as cookie-cutter stock characters; not the TV preacher, not the police lieutenant, not even the busybody neighbor. Only Carter Robb, the young minister, could use more development, which I wouldn't be surprised to see happen in a future Roland March mystery.
Still on the topic of characterization: while I could never accuse March of being a particularly urbane human specimen, I highly enjoyed March's countrified character foil in Roger Lauterbach of the Harris County Sherrifs Department. The majority of the novel chronicles the investigative tussle between serial killer versus lone killer theories in March's current case.
What of "Christian" content? Well, first allow me to disclose that I deplore "Christian" being used as an adjective in most cases. As I explained to a family member yesterday, at his current rate March is still a good thirty years away from a conversion. From where I sit, any undue rush towards a conversion might just undermine the authenticity of the character. I use the term "undue" advisedly, being that I am not the author and have no special insight into the contour and trajectory of March's spiritual condition. We shall see what we shall see in future novels, deo volente.
Appropriately for a review of a mystery novel, I conclude with two mini-mysteries of sorts. Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised by the progress in Roland and Charlotte's relationship after being warned by the back cover blurb of the "growing rift in his marriage." Secondly, could it be that I sighted the author in his tortoiseshell glasses somewhere in the vicinity of Houston's Epicure Café? I could be wrong.