Verdict in Blood Hardcover – Sep 5 1998
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Joanne Kilbourn is a 51-year-old professor of political science, broadcaster, mother, lover, and amateur crime solver based in Regina, Saskatchewan. She's an original and immensely appealing character, totally believable in all her roles. In five previous installments, author Gail Bowen has supplied such a convincing array of details about her family, friends, and the landscape they inhabit that we slip into Joanne's life as easily as knocking on a neighbor's door.
The plot of this sixth book in the series is also strong on family and friends: when a tough judge, Justine Blackwell, suddenly softens up after 30 years on the bench and supports a prisoners' rights group, attacks from her three angry daughters make her doubt her own mental competence. Judge Blackwell turns to an elderly teacher and mentor, Hilda McCourt, for advice. McCourt is staying with her friend Kilbourn when they both get the news that Judge Blackwell has been battered to death in a public park. A group of ex-prisoners who had been incarcerated by the judge seem to have reasons to want Blackwell dead, but so do the Lear-like daughters, especially a former rock star and a discredited psychiatrist.
In addition to helping McCourt sift through the evidence, and then having to deal with another brutal attack, Joanne is also caught up in the psychological problems of the fragile 15-year-old nephew of her policeman lover. In all the turmoil, she still has time to become a grandmother, a scene described with as much honest emotion and artistry as the rest of Bowen's engrossing book. Other Kilbourn outings include Deadly Appearances, A Colder Kind of Death, and A Killing Spring. --Dick Adler
“A deeply involving novel…Bowen has supplied such a convincing array of details about [Joanne Kilbourn’s] family, friends and the landscape they inhabit that we slip into her life as easily as knocking on a neighbor’s door.”
“Bless Gail Bowen, she does it all: genuine human characters, terrific plots with coherent resolutions, and good, sturdy writing.”
–Joan Barfoot in the London Free Press
“An author in full command of her metier. Like a master chef, Gail Bowen has taken disparate elements…and combined them seamlessly.”
Top Customer Reviews
Judge Justine Blackwell is bludgeoned to death after leaving a party celebrating her 30 years on the bench. A call in the middle of the night wakens Joanne Kilbourn to ask that her 83 year-old friend and house guest, Hilda McCourt, identify the body. It turns out that Hilda has been asked by the Judge to decide if she is becoming senile. Judge McCourt has been spending a lot of time developing a halfway house for released criminals and her three daughters think she is losing it. When a will shows up that leaves the bulk of her fortune to the halfway house, the daughters become very upset. Some very unsavory characters at the halfway are linked to the Judge and come under suspicion. When Hilda is attacked and nearly killed in Joanne's home Joanne begins to put the pieces together and eventually solve the riddle of the Judges death.
The personal life of Joanne continues to be hectic. Her budding romance with Alex Kequahtooway, hits some snags when Alex's nephew Eli, disappears and Joanne's good-intentioned comments about his care raise Alex's hackles. An old lover returns to Saskatoon and wants to rekindle their old flame and throws Joanne into a bit of a tizzy. Joanne becomes a grandmother and her adopted daughter continues to grow in spirit and painting ability.
A good solid read but not as good as "Burying Ariel". After watching two made-for-TV movies of Bowen's previous books just before reading this book I had a little trouble getting my head around Joanne's character again. They are presented quite differently in book and movie.
In recent months Judge Blackwell had begun to act strange. She talked with some of the individuals she put away behind bars and offered to help them. The Judge was so worried about her mental state, she asked Hilda to assess her mind. The issue soon becomes not who killed the Judge, but which of her wills is valid. The older document leaves everything to her children. The newer document, recently processed, bestows her estate to a halfway house for former convicts. Joanne begins to investigate the final days of the Judge without realizing that she has placed her own life in danger.
The sixth Kilbourn who-done-it is a wonderful mystery that feeds on the craving and naiveté of individuals. The story line is impressive and the characters, especially the octogenarian Hilda, add much depth to an already complex storyline. The insiders tour of Regina also provides much warmth (in spite of the climate) to a well written regional amateur sleuth tale. This is a series well worth reading.