Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Book Review - Death Qualified

Death Qualified was the first novel by Kate Wilhelm that I have read. I finished it last week sometime, but I have found that I need a few days to digest a book before I can discuss it.

The book starts out following a university handyman, Lucas, who has just realized that he is being drugged by the people that he works for and that they call him by a name that is not his. As days pass since his last dosage, he begins remembering who he really is and bits and pieces of how he came to be where he is. Eventually, he runs away, finds his car and cash and takes his files from one person who was involved in the drugging.

The next part of the story is about Lucas's wife, Nell, and her life since Lucas has been away. She learns from her in-laws that Lucas could be headed back to her home and she is scared that he will show up. At this point in the novel, it's not explained why his return would scare her, but the implication is that he is abusive which led me to wonder why she hadn't left him before now. Eventually, Lucas does show up and when Nell finds him in her special place in the woods near her home, he winds up with a bullet in the head.

Enter our heroine, Barbara Holloway. At first, Barbara's father agrees to represent Nell at trial, but he soon realizes that he is over his head and calls Barbara home to help out. At first she is reluctant to get involved, but after meeting Nell and hearing the details of the case and who the prosecutor is, she agrees to defend Nell and begins to delve into the Lucas's past to find out where he has been and what he has been up to in the 6 or 7 years that he has been missing.

When I first started reading this book, I wasn't sure whether Lucas was someone to be trusted or feared because the first few chapters made him out to be a crazed and drugged mad man. When Nell first appeared, she came across as a gun toting, trigger happy single mom. Things are not always what they appear.

There were a few things in this book that were irrelevant to the murder trial, but I'm not sure that they were irrelevant to the story overall. There was a certain amount of science fiction and, even though I am not a fan of scy fy books, the scy fy plot elements felt relevant and necessary to this novel. In the end, there were some things that just weren't explained and that left me wondering, but it was only a small part of the book and I can live with that.

There were quite a few characters in this novel, but they were mostly all introduced within the first several chapters. Considering the number of characters, Wilhelm did a good job of keeping them all separate and with their own characteristics. I really liked the character of Bailey, the investigator for Barbara.

As tends to happen with books, the second half seemed to fly by and I found myself checking my iPod to make sure that I didn't miss any parts. It seemed like I listened to the last 6 parts in the course of 2 hours instead of the normal 6! At the end, everything made sense and justice was achieved ... for the most part. I really enjoyed this book and have already requested the second book from my library!


Tracy said...

Sounds like something I could listen to...thanks for the review. I will see if my library has it.
I just finished a very good book called June Bug by Chris Fabry. The ending was a little weak but I couldn't put it down!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like soemthing I'd like...

Victoria said...

We need to start a book club!