While the titles of J. A. Konrath’s series featuring Lieutenant Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels are all named after drinks --- WHISKEY SOUR, BLOODY MARY, RUSTY NAIL and the recently-released DIRTY MARTINI --- these aren’t lighthearted stories about wasting away in Margaritaville. The novels are set in Chicago, and the crimes and its perpetrators are dark indeed.
DIRTY MARTINI had me on the edge of my seat --- not once, but twice. I won’t go into too much detail, but the first time was when Daniels was in a house and the second time was when she was in a truck. Upon completion of the book, I thought I was going to require cardioversion to get my heart working properly again.
Between those two scenes, however, is one heck of a story, expertly plotted and wonderfully told. Konrath starts off by introducing The Chemist, a twisted genius who plans to take revenge on the City of Chicago by poisoning its food supply. Quite honestly, the author’s step-by-step description of what The Chemist does, and how he does it, is enough to make me, a city boy through and through, get a complete library of The Mother Earth News, move to the country and become entirely self-sufficient. That is even before you get to the aforementioned “house” and “truck.”
Meanwhile, Daniels’s boyfriend has proposed, but she is afraid to say “yes,” even though she wants to. She then discovers that her long-deceased father isn’t dead at all. Those are relatively minor problems, however, compared to what The Chemist has planned, which is to hold Chicago for ransom. How do you catch somebody who is a master of disguise, two steps ahead of you and capable of murder performed in unexpected ways? Maybe you don’t. Perhaps this is the last book in the series. You’ll have to read to find out.
Mystery, action, suspense and, perhaps, redemption. Oh, and a bit of very well-written erotica as well. All this is to be had in DIRTY MARTINI. One cannot reasonably ask for more, or for better, than Konrath and Daniels straight up.
One more thing. At the very end of the book, Konrath gives thanks, by name, to every single bookseller he met while on his book tour for RUSTY NAIL. A cynic would call that a smart marketing move, but I call it “class” with a capital C. If you need one more reason to read DIRTY MARTINI, that is it.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011