Sex in the county…
Pinky Granum is working as an investigator in the law office of her step-uncle (I think), Rik Dudek. Rik has been hired to defend the local police chief who has been accused of soliciting sex from junior officers in exchange for promotions. The twist is that the police chief is female, Lucia Gomez, and her alleged victims are males. Lucia claims the allegations are being co-ordinated by an old adversary of hers, a man known as Ritz, who was once her boss until she was gradually promoted to become his boss instead. Now Ritz is a rich and successful property developer, and Lucia thinks he’s out for revenge because she had him sacked from the police force. Two of the officers who are accusing her also work part-time for Ritz, so there’s an obvious connection. Pinky takes a liking to Lucia and throws herself into trying to prove that Ritz is behind the accusations. But meantime Pinky’s also concerned about her neighbour – a newcomer who’s behaving very strangely, in her opinion, so in her spare time she sets out to investigate him too.
In the previous book in the series it became clear that the major recurring character, Sandy Stern, was making his final appearance, and in fact I assumed it would be the last of the Kindle County books. Turow has decided to continue them by making Pinky the central character in this one – Sandy’s granddaughter who has appeared in a secondary role in the last couple of books. Was this a wise decision? I’m not sure. While I never feel authors should restrict themselves to writing only about people like themselves, I feel it’s a stretch for a man in his 70s to successfully inhabit the head of a young female character in a society that has changed so dramatically since his own youth. Of course I’m also at the other end of the age scale from Pinky, so it makes it hard for me to judge how well he’s pulled it off. Personally, I found Pinky utterly tedious and stereotyped, to be honest – bi-sexual (of course), foul-mouthed, Mohawk hairdo, voraciously sexually promiscuous, ex-drug addict, thrown out of the police college, covered in tattoos (or ink, as the cool people apparently say), unable to form permanent relationships, etc., etc. Exactly the type of character, in fact, that has driven me away from contemporary fiction in recent years into the welcoming arms of vintage and the classics.
However, the Pinky character wasn’t my only problem with the book. The Lucia plotline is sordid in the extreme. While she may or may not have been forcing unwanted sex on her subordinates, she was certainly having sex with them and we hear far more about the sleazy details of that than this reader wanted to know. There have been earlier books in the series where sex played an important role in the crime or in the lives of the characters, but I don’t remember any of them being as graphic as this or as overwhelmingly consumed by the subject. (Or maybe I’ve just grown more prudish. It seems to me men, or at least male writers, of a certain age become increasingly obsessed by sex, while women of the same age grow less interested in it as a literary subject as they grow older.) I feel that Turow has tried to appear modern by making his two main female characters behave like the worst of men – one considering everyone she meets in terms of suitability as a sexual conquest and the other being the sexually predatory boss. Both are stock male characters who have merely had their genders flipped. I didn’t believe in either of them.
I considered abandoning it about a quarter of the way in but, because I’ve loved this series for so long, I decided to persevere. I wish I hadn’t. I can only hope that Turow doesn’t repeat this experiment. If he is going to continue the series, I hope he brings forward a different character to take the lead role next time, as he has done from time to time in other books, and finds a rather less salacious plot.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Swift Press.