Like pretty much everything I’ve ever read by Laurie King, I quite enjoyed Night Work, the fourth installment of the Kate Martinelli series. Of the ones I’ve read lately, it’s my least favorite–but this is in no way a disparagement, since I’ve found that even a lesser King work is still an excellent read.
In this particular work, as is often the case with a mystery novel with any substance, two seemingly disparate plots eventually become intertwined. Kate begins the story investigating incidents surrounding an anonymous group, the Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement, launching retaliatory assaults upon men known to have abused women. At first their assaults were comparatively innocent, and they’ve won the grudging admiration of many in the police department–but now actual murders with the earmarks of the Ladies’ activities have begun to turn up. Meanwhile, an activist friend of Kate’s has asked her to look into the death by burning of a young bride in the city’s community of immigrants from India, and Kate has the challenge of trying to balance Roz’s request against the fact that Roz herself may be a suspect for the ongoing attacks on male abusers.
Thanks to not only the plot involving the young Indian bride but also the abused women’s shelter, there’s a lot of Kali imagery involved with King’s prose here. It might get a little heavy-handed for some readers, especially when Kali is presented as a vengeful symbol to whom the shelter’s residence might turn for guidance. Some readers may also find the scenes where Kate and her partner have Roz and her partner over for dinner, and engage in quite a bit of “aren’t those straight people just WEIRD?” conversation, a trifle heavyhanded. As a queer person myself, I did have a moment of “agh do we have to have the obligatory boggling over the straight people conversation?”
Still, though, I found the scenes in the women’s shelter very effective, as well as the general sense of queer community that Kate and her partner Lee and their friends have established with the other characters. I particularly liked the advancement in Kate’s and Lee’s relationship, as they’ve been working to mend the fractures between them caused by the violent events from earlier in the series. And I must admit, I was cheering on the Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement from page one.
Over all, four stars.