The Last Good Place, by Robin Burcell****

thelastgoodplaceWhat a treat! They say all stories have already been told once, but I’m telling you, this one hasn’t. Oh, trust me! And my thanks go to Net Galley and Brash Books for a wonderful DRC. This one will be up for sale November 3.

Some may recall the TV series “The Streets of San Francisco”; the show was based on a set of police procedurals by Carolyn Weston. Characters Casey Kellog and Al Krug became TV characters Steve Keller and Mike Stone. In bringing the series back to us in the twenty-first century, new co-author Robin Burcell was asked to update it, since some of the over-the-top methods used originally could get a cop fired these days, and the old methods would not resonate with the public. Burcell has a lengthy background in law enforcement, and now I know that she is also a capable novelist. The pages flew by, and I enjoyed her improvement of the old series.

As the story commences, there have been a series of murders at famous landmarks in San Francisco, and it has been inferred by the media that tourists are at risk. While sometimes life may be cheap, the tourist industry is key to the local economy, and there’s heavy political pressure set to find someone and solve this crime, preferably accurately, but if not…just get someone, haul them in, and charge them.

So when Marcie’s neighbor and good friend Trudy turns up dead, there is speculation. Has she been a victim of this killer, or is it a copycat killing?

We find out right at the get go that Marcie knows a thing or two. For example, she knows that Trudy and her husband are getting a divorce; they are no longer in love. And Marcie also knows that her buddy has been spending some private time with Marcie’s husband. And so while Trudy and her soon-to-be-ex are going to sell their house as part of dividing the spoils of a marriage gone bad, Marcie won’t sell her house. Because it is her house, along with the eucalyptus grove out in the backyard. Her grandfather left her the house, and he left her the trees. He used to tell her that this humble, quiet spot out back was “the last good place”, and Marcie won’t part with it. Not ever. Not even to increase the property’s value—for herself and also for friend Trudy—by making their homes bay view property. Her grandfather preferred the trees to the water view, and so does Marcie.

It’s time to go jogging with Trudy, but Marcie hangs back and hides for a bit. We aren’t quite sure why, apart from the fact that she is suspicious that things are not what they seem to be. Trudy’s been a little strange toward her lately. And what do you know…Trudy dies on the morning jog before Marcie catches up to her.

This is a really accessible story, and I thought I ought to be able to solve the mystery. Goodness knows I read enough of them! And yet, I really didn’t get it. The author doesn’t pull the rug from beneath the reader by introducing a lot of new information at the end, or any of the other unfair devices writers occasionally use in order to make their story’s ending a certain surprise; I had a reasonable shot at it, but I didn’t get it. And I loved the ending!

The characters—the experienced, fatherly, crafty interrogator Al Krug, and his ambitious partner, Casey Kellog, are well developed and personable, but their personal lives don’t distract from the problems at hand. There are a couple of red herrings, but the plot is essentially linear and easy to follow.

All told, this one is a humdinger, and you should read it!

3 thoughts on “The Last Good Place, by Robin Burcell****

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