Delivering Death by Julie Kramer is the 6th mystery featuring Minneapolis investigative reporter Riley Spartz (available January 7, 2014).
One of my favorite things about reading a new-to-me author is meeting new characters. It’s rare and, to use a cliché, magical, when a character draws me in immediately. When I started reading Delivering Death, I knew that Riley Spartz had appeared in five previous installments, and part of me wondered if I would be drawn in or if I would feel that I had missed too much. I am happy to report (no pun intended) that not only was I drawn in, I completely enjoyed riding along with her, living her crazy life, and laughing at her constant wit.
Riley Spartz is a hardworking investigative reporter for Channel 3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her news station is in constant battle just to be number 2 in viewer ratings. While her boss Bryce is concentrating on trying to wow viewers with a new and improved studio set, Riley is trying to figure out who mailed her an envelope full of human teeth. After consulting her dentist, she learns that the teeth are from a mature adult, and the scratch marks on the enamel indicates that they did not fall out on their own, but were yanked out with some sort of tool.
She takes the teeth to Minneapolis Police detective John Delmonico, doing her civic duty and also trying to get more information that could possibly lead to a story. She has plenty of experience interviewing the police, but the detective does not seem inclined to give her a break.
We sat in a conference room down the hall from his office because he didn't like visitors -especially journalists, near his desk. He once mentioned worrying we'd use reporter tricks like reading documents upside-down to gain confidential information. His fear was not unfounded; I'd used that technique occasionally to gain exclusives. If you could see it, you could confirm it. If you could confirm it, you could report it. The first media outlet to break any big story won bragging rights –and hopefully, a growing audience of viewers or readers.
From my experience, sources sometimes leave paperwork in plain sight because they want to leak something, but don't want to be held responsible. But whenever gleaning such a lead, I always double-check to make sure my scoop wasn't really a red herring.
Still, I contemplated informing Delmonico that desk spying was passé' and had been replaced by hacking email accounts, but he kept our discussion focused on the teeth.
“You got these in the mail?” He went over my story with me again, this time making notes. “Any idea who sent them?”
“No.” I pointed to the outside corner of the package, overloaded with about three bucks worth of postage. “Too bad about the peel and stick stamps. Otherwise we might have gotten the sender's DNA from their saliva.”
“I know about forensics. It's my job.” He ignored my efforts to be helpful, making it clear that we were not a crime-fighting team like Holmes and Watson.
Riley continues to try and solve the mystery of the teeth, but her boss keeps sending her to the Mall of America to work on stories she thinks are more puff than substance (like an upcoming movie to be filmed at the wedding chapel inside the mall). Another aversion she has to the mall is that her ex-fiancé, Nick Garnett, works in the mall’s security department. Although they have both been through some dicey situations together, their relationship has been quite rocky—and Riley doesn’t seem to be over Nick yet.
I'd broken up with him once. He'd broken up with me twice. That meant he was leading in our game of love and war. Looking back on our long romance, I concluded neither of us were at fault for the early rifts. Our relationship became a casualty of evil, when those around us were destroyed in dual waves of bloodshed. We had each killed killers, pulling the trigger on psychopaths. That shared experience should have bonded us for life, but we were too racked with guilt to find comfort in love. Yet, on some level, we both were desperate for another outcome…willing to try again.
One of the most entertaining aspects of the book was the humor. Yes, I do realize that one of the key events involves human teeth being sent to a reporter via the U.S. Postal Service. But the author manages to make the whole idea of it humorous.
Once the door was shut, I dumped the teeth on the center of his desk calendar. The stench caught him off guard and he glared at me before wheeling his leather chair backwards to escape a pearly white ricochetting toward him.
Forgetting they might be evidence, I quickly reached out the palm of my hand to block the enamel runaway from falling off the desk. The roots didn't freak me out so much anymore now that my dentist had explained that they'd had a mysterious life, cut short. I had empathy for their demise, besides curiosity, and wanted to tell their story.
… Boldly, Bryce reached for a tooth, but I slapped his hand back. “No touching.”
“Fine,” he said. “But what do you think? Are they a threat, or a tip? What's their message?”
“Sorry, boss. They're not talking.”
Whenever a review focuses on the characters of a book, I start to wonder what sort of plot I will find. I am happy to report that this book has great characters and a great plot. Kramer inserted some very interesting twists and most of them went right over my head, which works for me because I prefer to be surprised.
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Kerry Hammond has been an avid mystery reader ever since she discovered Nancy Drew at the age of 8. She enjoys all types of stories, from thrillers to cozies to historical mysteries.