Everything old is new again. In the 1950s and 1960s Ace Books published what they called "Ace Doubles," consisting of two short novels joined together, each with separate covers on the front and back. Finish one novel, turn it over and start another. There were a couple of marketing methods to this madness: the consumers felt like they were getting more bang for their buck, and retailers would often allocate two spaces on the shelf to the volume, one for each cover. DOUBLE HOMICIDE by Jonathan and Faye Kellerman puts this concept to great use as it heralds their first official collaborative effort --- or shall we say efforts --- consisting of IN THE LAND OF GIANTS and STILL LIFE.
Don't pick up DOUBLE HOMICIDE expecting to encounter environs or characters one normally associates with either of the Kellermans. IN THE LAND OF GIANTS is set in Boston, while STILL LIFE takes place in Santa Fe. Both short novels do share some similarities, if not commonalties. Each one introduces a set of homicide detectives who on the surface are mismatched, but who manage to work together and get the job done. The job, in both cases, involves the investigation of a murder a few weeks before Christmas.
IN THE LAND OF GIANTS ostensibly involves the murder of a college basketball star. Boston Homicide Detectives Michael MacCain and Doris Sylvestor soon find, however, that his death and its subsequent implications involve far more than the apparent random violence that his passing would otherwise indicate. Of the two novels, IN THE LAND OF GIANTS suffers a bit from this particular format. The plot and the characters seem to be slightly cramped by the page limitation. MacCain and Sylvester --- MacCain in particular --- are extremely interesting characters, and if the Kellermans choose to revisit this format and these characters in the future, further acquaintance would be most welcome.
STILL LIFE is the far better of the two novels. Darryl Two Moons and Steve Katz are mismatched Santa Fe homicide detectives who find that their holiday season is disturbed by the murder of Larry Olafson, an art gallery owner whose business practices and political activities have made him unpopular with a number of people in the area. The contrasts between Two Moons and Katz are quietly amusing --- Two Moons is grumpily rock steady, while Katz is almost too flaky to be a cop --- but the understated, dogged manner in which the two go about their business is a joy to behold. The story is fairly straightforward and well-told, with the Kellermans doing an excellent job of character development and atmospheric description within the economy of space this format affords.
DOUBLE HOMICIDE is a most welcome effort that will hopefully be repeated on an annual (at least!) basis. This is a format that other writers may wish to adapt in order to test the waters for efforts that may not fit the definition of a full-length novel yet are too promising to consign to unpublished oblivion. Recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011