A review of Ill Will (Micky Knight #7), by J.M. Redmann

READ JUNE 2013

ONLINE PLOT SUMMARY: First, do no harm. But as New Orleans PI Micky Knight discovers, not every health care provider follows that dictum. She stumbles into a tangle of the true believers to the criminally callous, who use the suffering of others for their twisted ends. In a city slowly rebuilding after Katrina, one of the most devastated areas is health care, and the gaps in service are wide enough for the snake oil salesmen—and the snakes themselves—to crawl through. First, her investigation is driven by anger, but then it becomes personal as someone very close to Micky uses her cancer diagnosis to go where Micky cannot, into the heart of the evil where only the ill are allowed. Micky is her only lifeline out. Can Micky save her in time to get to the medical treatment she desperately needs to survive?

MY REVIEW: If you read “About me an’ the blog,” you know that Redmann’s Death by the Riverside, the first book in this series, was what caused me to begin reading mysteries with lesbian protagonists. So, you might say Micky Knight and I have a long history together. I recently finished Ill Will, the seventh entry in the series. Before starting it, I reread the entire series, a third reading for all but books five and six. That was rewarding in itself, and helped prepare me for he latest volume. Sorta like rereading all the Harry Potter books before seeing the movies.

Well, if I look to this genre for emotional impact, then Ill Will is a veritable bonanza. Things have been so since the early books where Micky deals wih the trauma of her childhood years. It would not be out of place to call Redmann’s writing visceral, affecting you not only emotionally, but also physically. Very few authors have hit me so hard in that way, and, certainly, not as consistently. But, in the current volume, the emotional stakes have risen, even over the wrenching events of the previous two books.

As to Ill Will itself, I’ll speak in generalities, for it would be extremely easy to drop spoilers. Let me start by saying I consider Micky and Cordelia to be the iconic couple of the genre, kinda the Bette and Tina of lesbian mystery. And make no mistake, though Redmann’s books are very enjoyable simply as mysteries, the interpersonal relationships are every bit as important. As the book opens, something over two years post-Katrina, Micky and CJ (Cordelia James) are beginning to get somewhat back to normal after the hurricane and after CJ’s brief fall from the monogamy wagon. Then, after the various mystery elements have been introduced — the Micky Knight stories usually have several mystery threads going on simultaneously — new and  even greater emotional turmoil arises. Gotta admit, Redmann totally blindsided me with this one. The French have a word,  boulversant, which can mean simply upsetting, but which usually implies shattering or staggering. That’s how I felt. Like I said, Redmann tears at your guts. I was stunned. I mean, I fuckin’ love these two characters.

Anyway, enough angst. The mystery is enjoyable in and of itself, and satisfactorily, if messily — quite literally —  concluded, but the major emotional issue remains unresolved. I was a bit disappointed that familiar secondary characters didn’t occupy a bigger role, but understand that, given the issue I don’t wanna name, Redmann was right to focus on the two principals.

I was, just here and there, a little disappointed in the writing, which heretofore has been so rock-solid, even exemplary. Sprinkled throughout, not terribly often, but enough to be jarring, is some phrasing that’s just really awkward, not  necessarily wrong, but very un-Redmann-like. It isn’t enough to spoil an excellent reading experience, just enough to cause you to scratch your head a few times.

So, to conclude, most highly recommended, on several levels. Like the others in this series, this one goes straight to my “favorites” shelf.

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