This review was originally posted on amazon on June 13, 2012:
This is the first book in the Kate Martinelli series, set in San Francisco. When a third child ends up a victim of a homicide, Kate, newly promoted, is called into the investigation with her partner, Al. The bodies of the victims are found off of The Road, a commune-like place established by a wealthy, if somewhat eccentric, San Francisco resident. As the clues pile up, suspicion falls upon an artist who has been released from prison after she was convicted of the strangling death of a child as a teenaged girl. Kate and Al must sort through the clues and misdirections to find the truth about the murders, past and present.
Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of Laurie King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, which I recommend over this modern police procedural. It is not that I didn't enjoy this book, because it was a well-written, serviceable mystery, but the Mary Russell books are truly excellent. The subject matter of this book is disturbing, but the deaths of the children take place largely off-screen.
Laurie King excels at characterizations, and this book is no exception. Kate - or Casey as she is known for most of this book - is a fascinating, complete character. She behaves in ways that are consistent, and her compassion and integrity are very convincing.
If this book has a weakness, it is a little bit slow. Because it is the beginning of a series, Ms. King spends a lot of time introducing her characters. This slows down the action somewhat, and the first part of the book drags a bit, in my opinion. In addition, some of the psychological aspects of the book aren't terribly convincing.
Overall, I'd give it between 3 and 4 stars - an engaging read, but not extraordinary. The author is capable of more, but this one didn't disappoint.