Popular mystery author Laurie R. King returns with her Kate Martinelli series in Night Work, published by Bantam Books, copyright 2000.
Kate Martinelli is leaving the theater after watching her goddaughter’s performance in a play when she is paged by her partner, Al Hawkin, and is sent to investigate a homicide in her part of San Francisco. The corpse had been deposited in the bushes beside a regular jogging path near a cemetery. Ligature marks on the neck show that the man had been strangled. Further inspection reveals that he had been handcuffed and his wallet still had eighty two dollars in it along with an I.D. that declared him to be James Larson who lived in south San Francisco. They also found some candy in his pockets as if the man had a sweet tooth, and a burn on the body that would suggest the use of a taser or stun gun. His hands were duct taped behind him.
All of this pointed to a group that called themselves The Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement that had been subjecting sex offenders to humiliating punishments including tattooing their genitals, dying them with a semi-permanent purple ink, and posting their faces on billboards throughout the city. This group would often leave a note to declare who they were and why they had humiliated this particular person. The Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement often used a taser, purple dye, and duct tape without leaving fingerprints.
One of the first to suffer their humiliations was a man who was acquitted of statutory rape by proving that the alleged victim, Belinda Matheson, was using her twenty one year old sister’s I.D. that he claimed she had shown him upon entering the bar, where he fed her a lot of alcohol and took her home to his bed where he raped her. Her parents pressed charges but Doyle’s lawyer won out with the false I.D. defense. Larry walked away, but had the audacity to say to the press upon questioning, “Fair is fair, Belinda”. After a celebratory dinner Mr. Doyle disappeared only to be found eight hours later by morning commuters, quite alive though spitting with rage, stark naked and spread-eagle across the window of a building under renovation. His genitals had been dyed purple and he had also been tattooed with the phrase “I screw children”. There was also a note duct taped to his back that read “Fair’s fair, Dick” and signed The Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement.
Now things may have turned much more urgent when one of the people normally targeted by the Ladies is found dead by strangulation. James Larson had been a baggage handler for the Los Angeles airport and had a few convictions for spousal abuse, making him a likely target for the Ladies. The first suspect was of course the wife but it was confirmed that she had left him and gone to a woman’s shelter before the incident occurred, and she didn’t show a vengeful attitude. She was sad for his death but glad to be rid of him.
The wife of James Larson had called a lawyer and was seeking someplace to stay when James was to be released from prison. Kate goes to meet this lawyer named Carla Lomax, who vehemently believed James would have eventually killed Emily Larson and she was glad the man had been killed. Carla clearly fit the profile of one of the Ladies but she did not believe that the vigilante group would resort to murder. As the body count begins to rise, with the exact same patterns of strangulation, duct tape, handcuffs, and candy, Kate and Al have no other leads beyond the Ladies’ calling cards but they begin to wonder if they should be investigating the Ladies at all.
You can never go wrong reading a novel by Laurie R. King. She has written many award winning novels in both the United States and United Kingdom. I always look forward to picking up the next novel and enjoying a writer who truly knows her way around crime fiction mystery.
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