READ NOVEMBER 2013
ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY: in a shadow world of secrets, lies, and hidden agendas, Detective Sergeant Rebecca Frye and her lover, Dr. Catherine Rawlings, join forces once again in the elusive search for justice. Rebecca is aided in her struggle to uncover a pornography ring and expose its connections to a traitor within the police department by a rag-tag team of dedicated cops and civilians: JT Sloan, a cybersleuth committed to avenging her lover’s devastating injury who walks the fine line between justice and revenge; Dellon Mitchell, a young police officer who discovers an unforeseen talent for undercover work; and Sandy, a prostitute who develops an unexpected passion for cops. Ultimately, this secret investigation may risk not just their careers, but may cost one their life.
MY REVIEW: This series just keeps getting better! I was pretty “meh” when I read Shield of Justice, book one of Rsdclyffe’s Justice series; some time earlier, I had read book one in her Honor series, and was basically underwhelmed by that one, too. Well, there’s that old saying, “Third time’s the charm,” so I tried Matter of Trust, which is sort of a prequel to Justice, but only in the fact that it introduces two new characters who will appear in the rest of the series. I was very well aware that “third time’s the charm” could equally well turn out to be “Strike three!” but, happily, that wasn’t the case. I really enjoyed Matter of Trust, though it’s more a romance than mystery or police thriller, enjoyed it enough to spur me to read Pursuit of Justice, which I liked even more, and, finally, to Justice in the Shadows, about which: Wow!
Where to begin? First, of course, Radclyffe’s prose is, as always, exemplary from a technical or mechanical standpoint. The plot is intriguing, especially as a continuation of the previous novel. The suspense is plentiful, and there’s enough humor sprinkled in to be a little relief from the cop stuff. The characters are what really stand out, here, though.
After Shield… and Pursuit… I’ve definitely warmed up more to the original characters, Rebecca, a Special Crimes Detective and Catherine, a psychiatrist, or, I think maybe it’s they who have done the warming. Sloan, computer security wiz and Michael, the principals in …Trust, are still a likable, as are the secondary characters from that book, Jason and Sarah. In a review of Pursuit…I wrote of the characters Dell, a street cop and Sandy, a prostitute, that their developing relationship was intriguing, and that I’d like to see a lot more of them in the series. Well, I got my wish, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It doesn’t diminish the likable and admirable nature of the other characters to say that Dell and Sandy are the highlight of …Shadows. They’re brave, resourceful, loving, a bit qurky and, somewhat more than Sloan and Michael, and a lot more than Rebecca and Catherine, they’re just plain fun. I can see where Rebecca and Catherine could be an iconic couple for some people, a Bette and Tina, so to speak, or, to stay in the same general genre, a Micky and Cordelia. For me, though, Dell and Sandy are what makes this entry in the series truly memorable. As with all Radclyffe’s characters, whether in series or stand-alones, everyone here is well fleshed-out, even the less prominent characters; clearly, this is an author who understands that cardboard figures and “filler” characters can be fatal to a work of fiction.
The police drama, as in Shield… and Pursuit, is compelling and suspenseful. Like her characters, Radclyffe’s story-lines are always credible and logically executed; Justice in the Shadows is no exception. The balance between that element and the personal relationships of the characters seems just right, as it has been in the rest of the series, and both are well-written and thoroughly believable.
There is, for those interested in such things, a lot of sex here, much more than in the other books, but, then, there are now three pairs of lovers, so it doesn’t seem like an undue amount. I’m again reminded, especially in the case of Dell and Sandy, of Katherine V Forrest’s comment about how such scenes can be used as means of characterization. Certainly, it’s true in the case of Dell and Sandy, whose relationship is just blossoming, and, I’m pretty sure in the future that it will help them work through issues that derive from their disparate lifestyles and professions. In the case of Rebecca and Catherine, it serves a similar purpose, for they also have issues, and sex can at times aid in opening lines of communication, bringing them close when otherwise Rebecca’s issues could cause them to drift apart. Despite a considerable number of sex scenes, however, they never feel gratuitous, and, while some of them are definitely quite erotic, they never feel prurient, nor are they titillating just to be titillating.
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a book this much. To sum up, the characters are thoroughly depicted, complete with their respective fears and foibles, and all are engaging, especially Dell and Sandy. The police drama is believable, well-paced and, intriguing, with a decent amount of action. To repeat, as regards the mechanical aspects of the book, the nuts and bolts of writing, Radclyffe’s serves as a model for other writers in any genre. While this might be expected from her editorial skills, it’s a quality I’ve come to never take for granted.
All the features above combine to make Justice in the Shadows an eminently readable and thoroughly enjoyable novel which can be read by police fiction aficianados and romance fans with equal pleasure. Very much worth your time.