Select one of the keywords
An Hour to Kill    by Karin Yapalater order for
Hour to Kill
by Karin Yapalater
Order:  USA  Can
HarperTorch, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In this well-written, psycho-sexual debut mystery, Karin Yapalater is resourceful in the use of trade cop-slang. Her fast-clipped style reminds me of the narration of the old Mickey Spillane detective series, as well as the cameras' short-clipped shots of cast members of the current NYPD Blue television series. Detectives Didi Kane and James Gurson of the New York Police Department (NYPD) of the Central Park Precinct are assigned to solve two murders of victims discovered in the northern area of the Park known as the Brambles.

The first victim, prominent New York psychiatrist Orris Gretz, is found by Gurson as the detective routes through the Park to pick up his son. The car's buried in snow, motor running, and the tailpipe stuffed with rags. On the car seat beside the victim, Gurson discovers a dead sparrow with its wings cut off, a cigar cutter underneath the seat, and a baffling notation on paper ... 'I have become accessible to consolation.' Gurson is a psychology enthusiast and second-generation cop recovering from a painful divorce, and struggling to become a better parent to his young son. Gurson's father died of asphyxiation in his home garage after dismissal from NYPD for having killed a youngster who drew a play gun. Still haunted by the memory and self-blame, thirteen-year old Gurson discovered his dad with the car motor running.

The second victim's body, burned beyond recognition, is later identified as ex-cop Charlene Leone, fired from the NYPD for narcotics use. Detective Didi Kan, known for her obstinacy and intelligent fortitude, barely copes with the circumstances of the brutal death of Leone, her former detective partner and ex-lover. Kane's grief is compounded by her implication as a suspect in the murder, and temporary suspension from the case. Gurson and Kane begin an investigation that accumulates undertones of deception and sadistic violence. The duo transcend their professional partnership, and become confidants in unveiling truth, while supporting each other in finding a way to deal with their personal troubles.

Dr. Isaac Collier takes on the responsibility of Dr. Gretz's burial services with misgivings. Dr. Collier has been called before the professional board, which threatens dissolution of his license for unprofessional practices. Collier had been Gretz's analyst in years past and knew of a case in which Gretz may have impregnated a fourteen-year-old patient. Analyst Theodora Weil, married to ambitious, pompous Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Tucker Norville, is closely connected with Dr. Collier. Ren, a prostitute from the age of twelve, and mechanic Boyd Cleary (with an unstable childhood), add power and energy to the story.

An Hour to Kill is a chilling, provocative portrayal of the disturbing flip side of psychoanalysis. With its unique twisted plot, deviant characters, and powerful prose, Yapalater's novel is worth every minute of reading time, as it twists towards an explosive, stunning dénouement.

2nd Review by Mary Ann Smyth:

Burned bodies, murder, apparent suicide, prostitution, the psychoanalyst's couch, photographs of deformed bodies, mutilated birds – did I forget anything? The above and more lie between the covers of this first novel by Karen Lapalater. An Hour to Kill uses New York City as its setting – in particular Central Park. Devastating crimes occur there and it's up to Detectives James Gurson and Didi Kane to sort out the events that led up to them.

The novel is tightly written with a plot that has as many twists and turns as a mountainside road. All the action anyone could want is there for the reading. We visit gruesome scenes without having to experience any of the gore that led up to them - which I appreciate. I liked the characters. They all were very human, with the flaws and peccadilloes inherent in each of us. They manage to achieve their objectives – legal or otherwise.

You can debate the merits of Jung or Freud, learn how an auto body shop functions, live with police detectives off-duty, visit the drug scene, and pit your detecting skills against the author. An Hour to Kill is a thoroughly engrossing book, a surprise for a debut novel.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews