Having watched Lis Wiehl on Fox News and enjoyed her take on law-related issues, I was eager to pick up Hand of Fate, the latest "Triple Threat" novel. I had missed the first one, so this was my first exposure to Wiehl's writing style (it's written "with April Henry," but I don't know how much involvement she had). Unfortunately, I have to say that while I learned a lot about various legal issues, the book itself didn't really engage me.
Jim Fate is a huge talk-radio success, syndicated in over 100 markets. He's opinionated, brusque, able to talk over anybody who's trying to argue with him (consider him a cross between Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Nancy Grace). Many people have a beef with him, and one of those people has killed him with a dangerous poison gas attack. In the ensuing panic, downtown Portland is evacuated, and the three women who make up the "Triple Threat" club - FBI Agent Nicole Hedges, Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce and Crime Reporter Cassidy Shaw - are each affected by the situation in unique ways. Afterward, they have to team up to figure out just who hated Fate enough to kill him.
Hand of Fate is a fairly short book (around 300 pages), and itís very disjointed. In most series, the character development comes out of the characters' reactions to the main plot, or perhaps within a subplot regarding something minor. In this book, some major events occur simply for the purposes of character development and have nothing to do with the main story. The entire Sarin gas scare at the beginning of the book ends up being mainly a character-development vehicle for these three women, and that's almost a third of the book.
Don't get me wrong - I love full character development in series novels. Regardless, if it's going to take up that much of the book, it should involve the main plot somehow. Instead, we get the details about Nicole and the paternity of her child (in an incident foreshadowed only a few pages before it actually happens, and then fades to nothing after it's over) and Allison's pregnancy issues, which also stem from the events at the beginning of the book.
The characters do some stupid things and make some unwarranted assumptions that it doesn't seem they would make. Cassidy knew Jim Fate well and sneaks into his apartment to take some stuff before the police can get there (stupid enough as it is), and then doesn't tell the others about her relationship with the murder victim? Nicole is one of her good friends, and she's heading up the FBI task force! She would likely have been understanding if Cassidy had just come out with it. When the truth is finally discovered, Nicole gets angry briefly, then it's never referenced again.
The detective work is too basic and unrewarding for the reader. The FBI agents (along with Allison) do some interviews, there's some lab work that they're waiting for, and they discover a few facts. Then everything is presented on a platter to them, and the guilty party is caught. Or is he/she? They consider the case closed far too easily. The climax of the novel involves more Cassidy stupidity, but to outline how would really spoil the book.
On the other hand, Wiehl's prose is quite readable and keeps you going even as you're rolling your eyes at the plot. Sadly, none of the characters (including the three leads) are necessarily that interesting, but there's enough there that I could see them becoming so. Eventually.
I love learning new things when I read, and I learned a lot in this novel. With Wiehl being a successful lawyer, I assume everything she says about how the law works is reasonably accurate. She gives a good (and mercifully short) explanation of how the grand jury system works, jury selection in a trial, and quite a few other things as well. It's nice to read an informative and entertaining novel, though sadly it isn't as entertaining as it could be.
Ultimately, Hand of Fate shows signs of promise, though I don't have the first book to compare it with in order to see if the series is already showing some improvement. It's not going to cause me shy away from further "Triple Threat" novels, though one more like this may do so.