Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Noteworthy Reads: PRACTICE TO DECEIVE by J.R. Lindermuth

This fifth and latest entry in the "Sticks" Hetrick series by my friend John Lindermuth measures up once again to the high standard readers have come to expect. And John has even ups the ante by moving much of the action away from familiar Swatara County, PA, and involving Sticks in one of his most complex cases, this time aboard an ocean liner cruising the Caribbean. An series of stateroom thefts and the knowledge of Hetrick's police background by certain fellow passengers—some of whom are theft victims reluctant to deal with the shipboard authorities—combine to draw Sticks into the investigation.
Meanwhile, back in Swatara Creek, the police force over which Sticks had once been chief and has remained attached on a special consultant basis, is dealing with their own tense investigation into a series of bizarre assaults on several of the community's young women.
It isn't long before murder gets added to the mix in both cases.
Lindermuth's skilled writing talent cuts smoothly back and forth between the two distinctly different settings and the two disparate investigations. There is some crossover in that some of Hetrick's suspects turn out to have Pennsylvania connections so he uses his hometown resources to attain some deeper background. Otherwise—and I don't want to give too much away here—it is a refreshing change that the two cases do not end up intertwined, as is often the case in these kind of set-ups.
Coverups and deceptions from the past—aided by some convenient coincidences in the present—play important factors in solving both cases. There is plenty of suspense, some nifty twists, and a couple of hair-raising close calls before everything is satisfactorily wrapped up. Lindermuth presents a large cast of characters, but paints them so deftly (with just the right amount of color and depth) and keeps the pace moving at such a brisk clip there is never any problem keeping up with who's who.
Well done. Recommended.
The only trouble is, especially since this a transition mark in the series inasmuch as Sticks will be pursuing new duties with the Swatara County prosecutor's off upon returning home, I am bummed at the thought of having to wait another year or so for the next entry. Get to writing, John!

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