For me, Dead In Red by L.L. Bartlett has been the most anticipated book of the year. Yes, even more so than Sue Grafton's latest - which is saying a whole lot since Sue is my favorite contemporary mystery author. Honestly, I have been anxiously awaiting Dead in Red ever since reviewing the ARC of Murder on the Mind, the first Jeff Resnick mystery, a couple of years ago. I'm pleased to say that I wasn't disappointed. Thank you, Ms. Bartlett, for allowing us to once again share in the lives and exploits of your dynamic duo, Jeffrey Resnick and his half-brother, Richard Alpert, M.D.
Ms. Bartlett provides snippets of the past, bringing the reader up to speed on her main characters without wasting time or bogging down the new storyline with unimportant details. If you missed reading Murder on the Mind, you won't feel like you don't have a clue what's going on, however, it was such an excellent read, I'd suggest picking up a copy and enjoying it first.
In this installment of Jeffrey Resnick, et al., Jeff is hankering to get back to work, in more ways than one. He accepts a part-time position as a bartender at a local sports bar, The Whole Nine Yards, but he also promises to look into the murder of Walt Kaplan, who just happens to have held said bartender position before being brutally murdered. Jeff's investigation uncovers the victim's well-hidden secrets that were overlooked by the police, but he also discovers some troubling ties between the dead man and a friend of Richard's. Jeff is torn between digging deeper for the truth and his desire not to do anything further to hurt Richard, especially since he still feels guilty for nearly getting Richard killed just months previously.
As with the first book in the series, Dead in Red is a real page turner. There are plenty of plot twists and turns to keep the reader on edge, and plenty of subplots that help better define the characters and make the reader feel emotionally vested in what's going on in their lives.
Jeff is having a difficult time adjusting to his psychic abilities, especially since he is still having a hard time accepting them. The fact that his intuition can strike at any place and time is more than a little unnerving. I enjoyed especially the character of Sophie Levin, an elderly woman who lives in a bakery on Main Street who has befriended Jeff, understands his gift of sight, and helps him decipher the meaning behind many of his visions. The fact that the reader, and even Jeff himself, is unsure whether or not Sophie really exists or is a figment of Jeff's imagination, is a very interesting tidbit.
I said it before, and I'll say it again. Someone in Hollywood needs to pick this up as a new drama series. Paranormal entities are very hot right now, and I dare say that L.L. Bartlett wrote the manuscript for Murder on the Mind long before any of the storylines we're watching now were written. Besides, her characters are far more interesting and their exploits far more exciting. I would LOVE to be able to watch Jeffrey, Richard, Brenda, Maggie, Sam, and Sophie on a weekly basis. I have no trouble at all picturing Michael T. Weiss (as he was in The Pretender) every time I think about Jeffrey Resnick. But, if that isn't in the cards (I sure wish I had Jeff's psychic ability!), I hope that L.L. Bartlett won't make us wait so long before sharing further adventures of the fascinating Mr. Jeffrey Resnick. I can hardly wait (especially after the book's cliffhanger ending!!!).
Carol Ann Hopkins, 3/9/2008