Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Death on the River Walk by Carolyn Hart (Henrie O #5)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Intriguing story; writing puts you in the action
Cons: Weak plotting and supporting characters
The Bottom Line:
Story intriguing
But pace very uneven
Hart can do better

Henrie O and the Missing Granddaughter

Carolyn Hart is best known for her Death on Demand mysteries, but I started with her Henrie O stories.  (Rebellious, aren't I?)  Henrietta O'Dwyer Collins, nicknamed Henrie O because of all the twists she puts into a day, is a retired newspaper reporter.  When she finds herself caught in a mystery, she uses her reporter training to get to the truth.  Death on the River Walk, originally published in 1999, is the fifth book to star this character.

Henrie O is making an unexpected trip to San Antonio.  A dear friend has called because her granddaughter is missing.  Henrie is hoping that it is simply a case of Iris being self-absorbed and forgetting to call her grandmother.  But when she arrives, she discovers that someone has search Iris' apartment.

With the seeds of worry having been sown, Henrie heads to the Tesoros Gallery, a family run art gallery on the River Walk.  Iris had been working there part time while she went to college.  While no one will admit knowing where she is, everyone seems to be hiding something.  Where is Iris?  Is her disappearance connected to Tesoros?

When I read the previous entry in the series last summer, I was highly disappointed in it.  I hoped this book would be a return to the strong earlier entries.  While it was better, it still wasn't a return to form.

The plot actually started out very strongly and I was intrigued from the start.  In fact, my concern for Iris' safety carried me quite a ways into the book before I began to notice the flaws.

At one point, I was admiring how the author was able to bring a minor character to life in just one scene.  Henrie's observations about this character spring to life.  How I wish that had been applied to the characters that really matter, you know, the suspects.  They tended to blend together and I kept having to thumb back through the book to make sure I had them all straight.  I've gotten to know Henrie well enough in previous books that she was still a good lead character.

While I was always intrigued to know what was happening in the book, the plot could have been stronger.  When the culprit of the nefarious deeds is revealed, there are no clues pointing to him/her.  It really could have been anyone.  That's pretty weak in my eyes.  Additionally, the second half gets bogged down in extensive description.  Take for example a paragraph near the end.  We're in the middle of a very intense scene when we get a long paragraph detailing what another character is wearing.  Honestly, we could have been given that info in one, maybe two sentences and gotten back to the action.

The writing is that of a polished professional.  The first person narration made me feel like I was definitely part of the action.

Despite my massive complaints, I did enjoy the book.  I just didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped.  Despite a strong story idea, Death on the River Walk turns out to be only average.

There are some great mysteries in this series, so check out the Henrie O Mysteries in order.

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