A review of Street Rules (Detective L.A. Franco Mysteries #2), by Baxter Clare Trautman

READ JULY 2013

ONLINE SUMMARY: “For ‘Frank, ‘ L.A.P.D. Homicide Lieutenant L.A. Franco and her homicide squad, it’s business as usual — a multiple murder, ugly as it is, at least seems to have an easy explanation. Until it coincides with an untimely drive-by shooting.

The investigation ultimately pulls Frank and her squad in conflicting directions while drawing Frank closer to the county’s new Chief Coroner, Gail Lawless. Through a series of twists and turns, all Frank’s leads eventually bring her to the disquieting possibility that the killer she seeks might well be one of her own brothers in blue.”

MY REVIEW: Mixed feelings about this one. First, to get prejudices out of the way: Kennedy, Franco’s lover at the end of Bleeding Out, was by far my favorite in that book, so I was really disappointed in the direction the author took their relationship.

Okay, now to the more objective. Clearly, the writing isn’t as good technically as in the first book, largely an editing problem. There are a lot of sentences that are really awkward, and some that are just — well, wrong. This adversely affects the pacing of the novel, because mechanical issues draw the reader out of the story and back to the surface, calling attention to the words themselves rather than to the narrative.

Then, there’s the dialog. The pervasive, almost overwhelming use of street slang and gangsta talk, and just basic crudeness, are so inconsistent with opening book of the series, Bleeding Out, that you wonder if this is even the same character. I understand the desire for verisimilitude, but it’s simply overdone. I’m certainly not a prude, but, when Frank refers to another character’s sexual encounter as “tearing off a slice,” it’s a little too much, no matter how butch our protag is supposed to be. In other places, the dialog just seems unnatural, again, more so than in the first book. These, of course, are largely editorial issues. I’ve always found Bella to be pretty inconsistent when it comes to both copy editing and story editing. It does a disservice not only to the reader, but also to a group of very talented writers.

Our protagonist, Lt. LA “Frank” Franco, is a complex character who, while she’s not always likable, is nonetheless admirable. A gay Kathleen Mallory, if you will. There’s something of a Dirty Harry mentality about her, though, which makes her less commendable than she could be.

All that said, Street Rules is certainly worth reading. Saying the writing isn’t as proficient mechanically as Bleeding Out doesn’t mean it’s “bad,“ simply that there were “issues.”  The mystery is interesting and consistently plotted, with plenty of curves thrown our way. The characters are pretty well developed; I still like Kennedy, though it seems Clare goes out of her way to make her less likeable than in the previous book. We get a pretty complete picture of Gail ( but I still like Kennedy) and we learn more about Frank, too. The other members of Frank’s homicide team form an interesting group, and Clare Trautman gives us a good sense of each of them. Only the “perp” seems not very fully-fleshed,“ which is a little disappointing.

The blossoming romance between Gail and Frank proceeds at a really nice, leisurely pace which I found quite refreshing.

Not quite a rave, but definitely recommended.

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