Sunday, January 29, 2006

I started Spider Blue at the gym yesterday afternoon, intending it to be the book that I'd read over the next several sessions on the treadmill. Encouragement, if you will, that I'd actually make the time to work out.

Instead, I cheated. I came home, parked myself on the sofa, fielded a few questions on Moby Dick from the other end of the sofa, and finished the entire book.

Spider Blue follows Keeping Silent in the Caleb Knowles mystery series. Caleb is a social worker/therapist in South Carolina, as is his creator, Carla Damron (I've met Carla via a shared interest yahoo list). He's a divorced father with a girlfriend who's questioning whether she's wasting her time with an altar-shy man and a brother to a deaf artist (accused of murder in Keeping Silent) who's thinking of throwing caution to the wind and moving to Atlanta where his career would definitely catch fire. Caleb doesn't want to lose either of them, but he's hard pressed to know how to prevent it.

Caleb returns home from a social work conference one night to find himself immediately engaged in the aftermath of two seemingly unrelated and motiveless murders. His girlfriend Shannon's best friend lives across the street from a nurse who's just been stabbed to death and is distraught enough to need to stay with Caleb and Shannon until the police can determine who killed her neighbor and why. When Caleb returns to work the next morning his schedule has been adjusted to allow him to squeeze in therapy sessions for several mill workers who witnessed a fellow employee inexplicably gun down three of their co-workers the day before, as well as sessions for the gunman himself and the emotionally fragile pre-school -aged daughter of the slain nurse. Before he knows it, Caleb is involved with the police investigation of both murders.

Damron's deft at both plots and honest, respectful portrayals of characters with mental illnesses and physical handicaps. I know I'm not much of a mystery reader, but as long as she keeps publishing them, I'll keep reading.

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