Three-Ways: Book 4 in the Karen Seagate and Ryan Miner Mysteries by Mike Markel

As entertaining and revealing as in Books 1-3, Karen Seagate doesn’t cut herself much slack: “I should start to feel a little better about myself. Once each blue moon, I get something right.” She says of her partner, Ryan Miner: “He sets the bar so high I just walk under it. Don’t even have to bend.”

            The crime is committed in the Prologue, described in enough detail to put the reader several steps ahead of the police by narrowing the number of suspects to the number of women who had had sex with the victim that evening. That throws into relief the number of possible permutations the police have to consider when starting from scratch in a murder investigation. We know many of those permutations are wide of the mark, but they don’t, not having read the prologue. Karen makes an observation near the end of the book: “If you’ve never been a cop, you’d be surprised how often you sit at your desk, knowing you don’t understand something but not knowing exactly where you went off track or how to get back on it.” That’s a key sentence.

            I really enjoy the author’s dry humour. Introducing Robin, the Evidence Technician, Karen tells us: “She frequently changes the color of the streaks in her hair, the only rule being that the color must not appear in nature.” Describing a booth near the back of a Coffee Hut, Karen says it looked “like it was decorated by a couple of eighth-graders with a half hour and a budget of twenty bucks.” Concerning relationships, Karen comments: “It’s not that I think it’s important to be honest in a relationship or anything sensible like that.” Of the murdered victim she says: “I have no idea what – if anything – Austin was in love with, except maybe his own reflection in a pool.” Or how about: “Ryan is quite a bit smarter than me in almost every measurable way, but when it comes to infantile behaviour, he’s not in my league.”

            Mike Markel is brutally frank about human weakness. “She was way past shallow, vain, thoughtless, and the rest of those other bad things we’d all admit to if we were being honest.” Referring to domestic violence cases, Karen says: “If she’s conscious, she’ll tell me what she did wrong. She bought the wrong kind of ketchup, or she was talking too loud on the phone when he was trying to watch football, or he saw her smile when she ran into the guy from down the street, or some other deadly sin.”

            He provides readers with plenty of convincing detail to bring his characters and venues to life. He knows a good deal about police procedure and is interestingly familiar with the intricacies of University life. Above all, he writes very well, and I am looking forward to reading the next book in his series.