Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Our Lady of Pain.
Forbes returns to the Barnes Murder Squad in her latest London-based mystery/thriller. A young woman has been found, frozen and bound in the park where she habitually runs each morning, hands and ankles tied in what appears a prayerful position, a poem inserted in her lifeless mouth: ďO mystic and somber Delores, Our Lady of Pain.Ē Fresh off their last murder case, the Bridegroom serial killings, Mark Tartaglia and Samantha Donovan team up again, pulling in the rest of their group to solve this latest case.
The early investigation yields an assortment of confusing clues: the murder victim, Rachel Tenison, has spent the night before her death with an unidentified man; her pristine apartment contains a locked trunk that holds a collection of masks, chains and instruments of bondage. Is there more to this successful young businesswomanís after-hours existence than first appears?
Rachelís stepbrother, a high-placed government official, her business partner and ex-lover, and a lifelong female friend disclose partial truths about Rachel, but each of them holds back personal details out of self-interest. Tartaglia grows increasingly frustrated by the lack of cooperation.
While Mark and Sam shared the spotlight in the Bridegroom murders in Die with Me, Our Lady of Pain (Mark Tartaglia Mystery) focuses primarily on Mark, who assumes the lead in the investigation. Sam tracks down more peripheral but equally important elements of the case, including a series of photographs from a prior murder that may or may not be related to the current body found in the park. There are certain undeniable similarities, but including the former case only complicates the number of issues involved.
Where the pace in Die with Me is relentless, its characters (including the killer) intriguing, Our Lady of Pain (Mark Tartaglia Mystery) suffers an unevenness of plot and particular persons, reluctant witnesses to Rachelís life who fail to inspire this readerís curiosity. Make no mistake: Forbesí writing skills are far above average; it just doesnít feel as though these people are interesting or valuable enough to the theme of the novel to sustain the plot.
In the end, it is the Murder Squad that contains all the drama, the other characters merely the means to an end. It is the plot that isnít memorable, in spite of the dramatic display of the young womanís body in the park or the trunk full of surprises in her bedroom. The suggestion of S&M in the bedroom fails to materialize with any substance, except as a tease.
Fact fails to live up to the hype of the first chapters. Perhaps Forbes is giving us a hint of real police work, the excitement of a fresh case that falls into tedium as the actual clues are run to ground. Still, I have faith in this author and expect much from her in future novels.