Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Strong mystery and characters
Cons: Metaphor in title a little overbearing in book
The Bottom Line:
Assassin shoots Joe
Leads to race to find killer
Fast paced page turner
Who Shot JR (As in Joe Rodriguez)?
When I first hear the title Fatal Fishes, I must confess I assumed that we would be dealing with poisoned fish of some sort. Granted, the Valley of the Sun mysteries are police procedurals and not culinary cozy mysteries, but still, with a title like that, I figured it was a safe assumption. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When the tip comes in to the Phoenix homicide department, Joe Rodriguez is lucky enough to be sent out to the desert to meet the informant. However, it isn’t a meeting – it’s an ambush. While Joe is badly injured, he manages to survive, taken to safety to two teens who happened to be in the area.
Joe knows the people who shot him were just hired for the job, and he thinks the hit came from someone in the police department. He barely even trusts his partner on the force, Tommy. But he has to trust someone if he is going to learn the truth while in hiding trying to recover. Will Tommy figure out what is going on before whoever is trying to kill Joe succeeds?
So where does the title come from? It’s the old metaphor about wanting the higher ups in a criminal organization. In this case, it’s minnows (the guys who pulled the trigger) versus the bass (the man who actually hired them). It works, although it is a bit overdone at times.
However, the heavy-handed metaphor is my only complaint with the book. This is a top-notch mystery from the very first page. It wastes no time in shooting Joe, which amps up the tension right away. I actually read this book years ago, and I remember quite a bit of the story. Even so, I had a very hard time putting it down because I was so caught up in the events once again. And there were bits I didn’t remember that impressed me again at just how tightly plotted this book is.
Sandy Dengler has written non-mysteries as well as mysteries, and I’ve always admired the way she is able to pull off a multiple view point story. That’s not something you see too often in a mystery, but she does it here beautifully. There is never any doubt whose head we are in, and it provides us with a clear picture of how exactly everything is unfolding. Plus, it really ramps up the tension at the climax.
With all the tension, there is still time for character development, which I loved. These are strong characters, and we get to see some different sides of them as they are thrown into this story. There are some new characters as well who fit right into this world that has been created.
Part of that character development comes from the Christian element of the book. Yes, this was written for the Christian market, but it never preaches, and those elements never once slow the story down. They do provide another facet to the characters, however, and provide some things to chew on when you have closed the book.
I was blown away again by just how strong this book is. Fatal Fishes remains a favorite of mine, and this reread only reminded me why.
Once you are hooked here, you’ll want to check out the rest of the Valley of the Sun mysteries.
This review is part of this week's Friday's Forgotten Books.