Friday, October 20, 2017

Book Review: 'Dying For Revenge' by Barbara Golder

Tennessee author Barbara Golder comes to her debut novel with impressive and pertinent credentials – she is both a physician and a lawyer – and has successfully married those two challenging achievements in her work as a hospital pathologist, a forensic pathologist, a laboratory director, a malpractice attorney, an officer in her state medical association lobbying for state and national medical issues, teaching middle and high school science, working for a major disability insurance company, and writing about medicolegal topics. There is much more to her CV, but that much is compelling enough to expect a medical mystery novel of the most informed nature!

Barbara Golder’s writing skills are astonishingly polished, even given her depth of knowledge about medicolegal matters. Her ability to create a vivid scene – whether that be involved with murder or courtroom or autopsy lab of the atmosphere of Telluride, Colorado - is spot-on excellent. She has created a credible fully realized character in the form of Dr Jane Wallace, Chief Medical Examiner for the Western Slope of Colorado, who bears resemblance to Barbara’s own background. Add to this gift the ability to create a sequence of events that literally opens with murder and proceeds to integrate an array of layers, a priest, and Hollywood type actors, police and more and she has created a novel that most decidedly falls into the category of magnetized inability to stop reading until the book is complete.

Style. Humor. Compassion. Intuitive responses to behavior patterns and cues. All of that is brought to us through the very real Dr Jane Wallace, the medical examiner who lost her husband in the past and adds insight and compassion to the colorful line of characters that build this murder mystery.
A fair overview of the tale, minus significant additives, is present in the synopsis: ‘Someone is killing the rich and famous residents of Telluride, Colorado, and the medical investigator, Dr. Jane Wallace, is on a collision course with the murderer. Compelled by profound loss and injustice, Jane will risk her own life to protect others from vengeful death, even as she exacts a high price from those who have destroyed her world. DYING FOR REVENGE is a story of love, obsession and forgiveness, seen through the eyes of a passionate, beautiful woman trying to live her life -- imperfectly but vibrantly -- even if she won't survive.’

Throughout this book are touches of Barbara’s style that bear quoting. ‘I’ve never had a lot of sympathy for murderers and since my husband’s death at the hands of a colleague, my supply had run out. Houston might have been a world-class jerk, but no one had the right to take his life.’ ‘Body temperature isn’t much help in determining time of death, especially in this day and age of air conditioning, but a lot of lawyers still ask about it, so I do it just to shut them up when I am on the stand. Most of the time, when you get right down to it, the cops establish the time better than I ever could, by old-fashioned legwork and being downright nosy. Like this time. ‘ ‘“It looks like the only religion you are prepared to respect here is your own. I might just have to add on the fact that you are using government facilities to promote your own religious beliefs at the expense of others.” That’s one of the things I hate, absolutely hate, about lawyers. Here this little Napoleon had come to try to keep me from doing my job by getting the county’s stupidest judge to issue him an injunction that ultimately wasn’t worth the paper it had been faxed on. You’d think that once he found out that he was too late to do what he came to do, the lawyer would have gracefully retreated. Instead, he decided to attack.’

By the end of this novel we, the reader, are so drawn to the character of Dr. Jane Wallace that the first thought after closing the book and turning out the late night light is ‘when will we meet this very American Miss Marple-type again?’ This is one fully realized, richly considered debut novel. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, November 16
This book is free on Kindle Unlimited

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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