The Mosquito Tapes by Chris Holmes
Publisher: Highland Press Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (235 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Books
Reviewed by Edelweiss
Jack Youngblood is a ghoul. That's what his friends call him. More comfortable in the morgue than the coffee shop, Jack is San Diego's Chief Medical Examiner. Dead bodies are his business. A twice-divorced recovering alcoholic, Jack hasn't had a date since he's been sober. His only commitment is to his work; his only love is Lilly the lab who shares his home.
When red-haired, green-eyed Jill Hanraty, a Forensic Investigator, joins his department, Jack falls for her like a mountain climber losing his grip. Together they investigate a pair of baffling homicides. Jill becomes more than Jack's colleague-more than a friend. Until she betrays him.
Part love story, part forensic police procedural, this fast-paced novel is full of chases, plot twists, a dramatic climax, and an on-again, off-again romance as mysterious as the murder investigations themselves.
The Mosquito Tapes by Chris Holmes is a medical examiner mystery of high suspense and tension. Later on the story transitions into a thriller. The setting is San Diego; Jack Youngblood is the County’s Chief Forensic Pathologist; Jill Hanraty is the crime scene investigator with whom he shares his work, and later his heart. The suspense over a John Doe murder is established early and instantly tingles with excitement, turning more than half the book into a non stop page turner. Part of the winning formula is the writing. The prose is arterial in its fluid energy, racing off the page and into our mind’s eye, perfect for the first person viewpoint the author has chosen. But the story doesn’t move so fast that the author shirks from plunging us into details of Forensic Medicine. But Holmes is skilled in bringing the reader effortlessly into the technical basics of forensics as they apply to criminal investigations in San Diego. This story simply sizzles, and although the plot eventually takes on a ambience akin to science fiction, the author pulls off a believable and satisfying conclusion.
The book’s weakness is both the love story and the way Holmes bends the male protagonist out of shape to accommodate it. We rev up on this story with Jack as the self contained bachelor, living for his work. On page thirty-eight he tells us that he has few friends and that people are overrated and unnecessary. This is a character who hasn’t had a date in many years, and he brags of the companionship he gets from his dog, Lilly. We root for Jack because he has acquired his self sufficiency the hard way: through dedication to his profession, by coming back from alcoholism and divorce and the death of a spouse. What a shock then, at the end of chapter five, when Jack suddenly loses his breath over pangs he feels for Jill, a woman he has known and worked with for many years. What!? This is instantly out-of-character and makes little sense. Plus the Jack Youngblood we have known and loved as a character begins to wobble and tumble in orbit. As the romance reaches its zenith, we are now told on page ninety-one that Jack indeed has dated other women, and later he tells Jill that he hasn’t been that self sufficient after all, not really, that things have been bad. So which is it?
Nor is the love story itself any more believable. Blowing up out of nothing after years of quiescent, mutual professional respect, our lovers are soon in a frenzy, unable to get enough of each other. But just as we make the adjustment and start cheering them on, they tumble, crashing and burning over an issue this reader felt was far too minor to cause their break-up to occur. As suddenly as it started, the romance stops. Jill’s behavior goes quirky and this leads to new plot developments. But the bewildered reader is left holding the bag as far as the love story is concerned. Perhaps there is a sequel in the works that will address this?
Because of the issues mentioned, it’s a good thing that the love story is a minor part of this reading experience. The romance aside, The Mosquito Tapes is a top notch mystery that blooms into a thriller of high caliber.