Fresh Meat: One Murder More by Kris Calvin

One Murder More by Kris Calvin is the debut mystery in the Maren Kane series about a good-hearted lobbyist from Sacremento caught up in a murder investigation (available June 1, 2015).

When you hear the word “lobbyist”, the image that often first comes to mind is of some slick wheeler-dealer in the halls of power, brokering political deals for the highest bidder. You’d hardly think of a — granted, unwitting — crime-solver who happens to also save lives, but that’s exactly who Kris Calvin presents to us as the protagonist of her debut mystery novel, One Murder More.

Maren Kane is pretty much the antithesis of the kind of cynical influence-peddler we’re familiar with from pop culture: principled and determined to do what she believes to be the right thing; she doesn’t let party lines deter her from getting the job done. Granted, One Murder More doesn’t pretend that all lobbyists are like Maren. We certainly run into several whose actions are as distasteful to Maren as they are to the reader, as well as into examples of other political movers and shakers who decorate the halls of power. In fact, one strength of this novel is the insider look into the workings of state government, particularly in Sacramento. The attention to both detail and history really brings the setting alive, as here, where she’s walking with her brother, Noel:

Maren donned her coat and the siblings crossed L Street, passing through the rose garden behind the large, white-domed building that housed California legislators and their staff since the 1860s. Built in the same Roman style as the congressional building in Washington, DC, though on a smaller scale, the designers of California’s capitol building opted to literally guild the lily, setting a gold cupola atop the white dome and capping that with a large copper ball, nearly three feet in diameter, plated in gold coins. Maren once reflected that while Hollywood might be California’s uncontested modern seat of glamour, Sacramento had set the stage by dressing up its legislative quarters years earlier.

When Maren finds a beautiful young political aide murdered in the capitol building, she doesn’t realize that it will lead to the arrest of her friend for what the police believe is a crime of passion. Maren is convinced that the young woman’s death had less to do with love than with money and power, and she’s determined to prove her friend’s innocence even as she struggles to push through an unpopular bill banning all cell phone use by vehicle drivers. Add to this mix complicated family and love lives, and Maren has more than just the one conundrum to solve.

The mystery at the heart of this novel is well thought-out, with at least one twist that had me deeply ashamed of my puzzle-solving skills for not having figured it out sooner. Granted, I wasn’t the only one (perhaps overly) excited by the revelation, as in this literally pulse-pounding passage:

Noel’s heart was racing.

Suddenly, a shrieking alarm went off in the hospital — it appeared to be coming from the monitor by his bed. He heard running footsteps, then shouting. Someone wrenched the tablet from his hands. Noel felt a stinging prick as the needle went in. He struggled to speak, but fell silent as the powerful sedative began to do its work. He could barely make out the voices.

“Were we in time?” asked the nurse.

“His heart rate was dangerously high,” Dr Wihabe replied. “We will not be able to image the heart to view the aortic tear to see whether there is any new damage until he is stable.”

One Murder More investigates the lengths to which some people will go in the pursuit of money and power, while never forgetting the human element of its large-hearted protagonist as she navigates the treacherous, even life-threatening terrain of state politics. The well-drawn setting makes it a standout amongst political mysteries, lending authenticity to the proceedings and providing fascinating insight to the workings of state government.

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Doreen Sheridan is a freelance writer living in Washington, D.C. She
microblogs on Twitter @dvaleris.

Read all posts by Doreen Sheridan for Criminal Element.

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