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Mystery Mayhem
By Hilary Williamson, November 2000

It seems that every mystery I read recently puts its protagonist through the emotional wringer and then hangs her out so that we can watch the tears drip. All my favorite authors are doing it. I wish they would go easier on our heroines. Don't they understand that we keep reading these series because we like these people?

Laurie King put Kate Martinelli's lover in a wheelchair in a previous novel and then left poor Kate to deal with the aftermath in Night Work. Dana Stabenow went even further when she knocked off Kate Shugak's lover Jack in Hunter's Moon and left Kate sorrowing through Midnight Come Again. And Patricia Cornwell wins my most gruesome award (as usual) for her technique in eliminating Kay's lover Benton from the series in Point of Origin. Kay spends Black Notice grieving (at least until a new young lover turns up).

You have to wonder about collusion. Just look at the heroine's names - Kate, Kate and Kay. I envision the writers getting together over a glass of wine at mystery conventions and competing over plots. Just wait till you see what I do to K in my next one. I bet I can go one better than that ... I'm not only going to kill Lee/Jack/Benton, I'm going to send her the head . And then they keep these poor investigators working - no counseling, vacations or nervous breakdowns for them, they just keep on being superwomen.

And they just keep going with their love lives too. King wins my credibility award in this case, as Kate Martinelli and Lee simply continue an interrupted relationship. Kate Shugak's grief is still deep when she has a reluctant (and drunken) fling with Jim Chopin. But look at Dr. Kay Scarpetta! After only a year, there she is starting a relationship with a new acquaintance, an attractive and much younger lover - poor Benton was soon out of sight, out of mind. This reader objected just as strongly as Detective Pete Marino to that choice, but then Kay is not always a sympathetic character.

What do you think of what Cornwell, King and Stabenow have put their K-aracters through lately? Read the books and let us know ...

Night Work  by Laurie R. King
Midnight Come Again  by Dana Stabenow
Black Notice  by Patricia Cornwell

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