Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review: Diagnosis: Murder - The Past Tense by Lee Goldberg (Diagnosis: Murder #5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great weaving of mysteries past and present
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Two time-lines, stories
Weave together brilliantly
Will keep you engaged

Mark is Haunted by His First Case

Diagnosis: Murder was a successful mystery TV show starring Dick van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, a Los Angeles doctor who can't help but solve murders that take place around him. He is aided by his son Steve Sloan (played on the show by Dick's son Barry van Dyke), a homicide detective for the LAPD. This series of novels is based on those characters and is written by Lee Goldberg, a former writer/producer of the show.

In the middle of a Southern CA rain storm, Mark Sloan finds a dead college student on the beach near his house. With hair died red and dressed in a mermaid costume, things seem weird. A vile is found inside her that contains pictures from Mark Sloan's very first case.

In February 1962, during another huge rain storm, a dead woman is brought into the ER. Everyone assumes she drowned during the rain storm, but Mark thinks something fishy is going on. When they find evidence of murder, Mark just can't let it go, even when it puts him at odds with the detective, former friend Harry Trumble. Can an inexperienced doctor solve the crime? Even more intriguing, what does this 40+ year old murder case have to do with the present murder?

This book is ingenious. About half of it is set in the past and half set in the present. Really, you get two mysteries for the price of one as we watch Mark solve both cases. Yet these two cases come together in a way I never saw coming. Seeing glimpses of Mark's past was enlightening as well as they helped flesh out his character. Lee did a good job of capturing time as well as place, and I really felt like I was back in 1962 for those scenes. Once again, Lee brings events from the series into the book making me wish I'd seen more of the earlier episodes.

These books are fast becoming one of my favorite series around. If you were a fan of the show, you owe it to yourself to pick up The Past Tense. You don't need to be familiar with the series to enjoy the books, however. Even if you've never seen the series, the plots will pull you in and make you start looking for the reruns. Is the next one out yet?

And if you are a series in order reader, here's the Diagnosis: Murder novels in order.

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