"Shaken" by J.A. Konrath
This book was not what I initially expected. I purchased the book some time back when it was promoted directly to my Kindle. By the time I came arond to reading it, a few days ago, I had forgotten any book description. The title and cover art seemed to suggest a cozy mystery to me. After only reading a few pages, I could see that this mystery involved a serial killer and a very gruesome crime, gruesome along the lines of Hannibal Lecter, or, in true crime, Jeffrey Dahmer.
Actually, the book has elements of both a thriller and a cozy mystery. Considering the disturbing nature of the crimes, the author does spare us highly graphic descriptions. Even so, psychologically speaking, the suggestion of these crimes is still quite disturbing. Towards the end of the book, the writer, via his characters, seems to almost make a humorous self-reference. Since I don't think it contains any spoilers, I'll include the excerpt.
Just before the excerpt, a policeman describes a scene from a thriller novel he read.
"'Nice,' I said, wondering what sort of a warped mind could think up something like that I'd hate to meet one of those thriller writers in person.
'It was actually pretty good. Held back on some of the really gross stuff. Sort of like Stephen King-lite.'"
That excerpted bit might give you an idea of the writer's style.
Between the more intense scenes and scenes with some gruesome suggestions, there is quite a bit of humor, mostly in the interactions between the main heroine and her male police partners, which provide some comic relief. Some of this humor is rather crude. Her partner Harry McGlade is presented as an "uncouth" character. Occasionally, between the disgusting nature of the crime and the crude jokes, I felt like I needed a brain scrub, but I kept on reading. I wanted to see the crime solved. I wanted to see justice done, and most of all, I wanted to see the heroine survive and overcome her danger.
In the very beginning, the heroine is kidnapped by the killer. I felt optimistic however, knowing this woman has a police background, and the story, in parts, is told from her point of view. This gave me hope that there would be a positive outcome.
The title "Shaken" and the drink shaker on the cover art is having a little fun with the main character's name. She is Jacqueline Daniels, aka Jack Daniels. Other books in the series also have drink references in the title. Jack Daniels, at this point in her story, is a former policewoman who is now a private investigator.
The story flips back and forth between scenes in different time periods, the present time and Jack's captivity and scenes from her former investigations with her partner or former partner, Harry McGlade and Herb Benedict. Gradually more information is revealed as the mystery is unraveled.
Because the writer uses his initials, I did not know until I finished reading that he was a man. As I read, I changed my mind several times whether or not the writer was more likely to be a man or a woman. The main sleuth we are concerned with is a woman after all. The crude "guy humor" among the male police partners was one element that caused me to think the writer was more likely male. In another observation, I really felt the understanding of female psychology was quite good, and that's not something I always feel when reading about female characters from a male writer's perspective.
Not all of the humor is crude in nature. I did find the interactions between the officers to be interesting and entertaining and began to feel like they were rather interesting characters I could know.
Over all, it's an interesting blend of light and dark.