My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4 stars to Barbara Venkataraman‘s novel Engaged in Danger: A Jamie Quinn Mystery, her fourth in the “Jamie Quinn Mysteries” series. Each successive book in this series grows stronger and builds a fun and intimate group of friends and colleagues who help Jamie tackle complex cases. It’s light-hearted, amusing and dare I say… engaging! (seriously wasn’t intending a pun there)
Jamie, a family law attorney, receives a visit from Nan Glasser, long-suffering wife of an adulterer, shady business man and potential murderer. Nan wants a divorce but over 30 attorneys have already declined taking her case because of her husband’s interference. Jamie searches for someone to help her but ultimately finds herself taking on the case with best friend Grace who has the resources to help out Nan. Along the way, Jamie receives threats, deals with legal drama and almost finds herself a murder victim trying to help save Nan. In the end, she of course comes out alive but each new case is definitely changing the structure of her once quiet law practice.
As a few fun side-stories which collide with the main one: Jamie’s boyfriend is called to Australia for a 3-month work assignment. She and Grace fight over Grace’s choice in a new boyfriend. Duke has troubles with his on-again / off-again girlfriend who once took out a highway billboard to tell the world he was a cheater. And Jamie helps her neighbors search for a mysterious holding company who owned the plane that went down killing their sister and brother-in-law. It may seem like everything’s disconnected, but when it all finds a common link, Jamie’s world is turned upside down!
Some authors have an amazing way of incorporating detail, background and descriptions without interfering with the story, and Barbara Venkataraman is one of them. You learn so much about Jamie, family law, history and the setting without even realizing it. Rather than several paragraphs of backstory dropped throughout (which also works well in some styles), the Jamie Quinn series drops tons of details in small blips so it feels like an actual conversation, a normal evolution of a relationship between two people. I love this style especially when complemented with a very relaxed, humorous, casual and collaborative approach to telling the story. Jamie’s voice is loud and clear, and when I read the words on the page, I actually find myself pausing when I think Jamie would pause, being snarky when she’d be snarky and being forward/direct when I think she would be. That doesn’t always happen for other authors or series… sometimes I love the characters and the books, but I don’t develop my own voice for the character when reading the lines. I absolutely do here and it helps make the read even more amusing and enjoyable.
While the story was full of surprises and had multiple arcs to keep readers curious about how it would all blend together, the ending came a little too fast for me. About 3/4 of the way through, you are just about to put all the connections together and suddenly a chapter ends with Jamie falling into a trap and boom… it’s solved in the beginning of the next chapter. I would have loved just one or two extra chapters of drama with Jamie trapped trying to workout in her head who had caught her before quickly knowing what happened. This could just be a matter of taste (I like the extra drama aspects) as it was still executed well and had suspense in the way the resolve was written. It’s one of the only times I found myself thinking in this novel… “hmm…” because other than that, it was a fantastic read.
I’m a little sad that I’m caught up in this series and may have to wait a bit before the next one is released. But when it is, you can be sure I’ll purchase this one the week it comes out.