20 July 2009

Review: Death Qualified by Kate Wilhelm

"Tom" can't remember much about the last seven years of his life, but he has figured out his name is really Lucas and recalls that he has a family in Oregon. Two things happen on the day Lucas finally returns to his wife, Nell: A young woman's body is seen floating down the river and Lucas is shot dead at the very moment he first sees his wife. After examination of the available evidence, local police decide that Lucas killed the woman and Nell killed her husband.

Barbara Holloway is staying with a friend in Arizona, trying to figure out what to do with her life. She left the law five years earlier in disgust over some of the behind-the-scenes deals and compromises made between defenders and prosecutors. But when her father, Frank, a semi-retired defense lawyer, talks her into returning home, she reluctantly takes on the Nell Kendricks case.

Death Qualified is a complex, multilayered courtroom drama and is the first in the Barbara Holloway series. The novel is told from several points of view and takes the reader from university campuses to a close-knit community in the coastal mountains about thirty minutes from Eugene.

Wilhelm's characterizations and descriptions of the landscape are detailed, making it easy to care about Nell, Barbara, and the other principal players. Unfortunately, the plot is a bit too all-encompassing: There are many more details about chaos theory and perception research than seem necessary. The red herring aspect of the Kendricks case takes up a good percentage of the novel and doesn't prevent the reader from figuring out who done it. Furthermore, the two surprises that occur at the end of the book are fairly predictable and expected.

The audiobook was read by Anna Fields, one of my favorite narrators. The Blackstone audio production was slightly flawed in that several times a paragraph would be repeated for no apparent reason. However, Fields is always a pleasure to listen to, and her performance added greatly to my experience with the book.

Although Death Qualified was not for me, the Barbara Holloway series is very popular, and the eleventh novel was published in 2008. Kate Wilhelm has a website, where you can learn more about her and the wide range of works she has published.

Published by Mira, 2002 (first published 1991)
ISBN-13: 9781551668727
Challenges: Pick Your Theme, 999, 100+
YTD: 57
Rating: C-


Sandy Nawrot 7/20/09, 8:40 AM  

You think you've read all the series, then here comes another one! This is a new one for me. Not sure if I am willing to commit though. After awhile, they all blend together!

Anonymous,  7/20/09, 9:52 AM  

This one is on my wish list. Hope I like it better than you did :)

bermudaonion 7/20/09, 10:31 AM  

The book sounds interesting. I'm going to write Anna Fields down as a good narrator - I really feel like the narrator makes or breaks an audio book.

Louise 7/20/09, 12:36 PM  

Started out to sound like a book with an intriguing plot, but then came the "court room" and then I know it is not for me....But I think the plot sounded really interesting and would have loved to read it if it had been a police procedure (is that, what it is called?) thriller.

Melody 7/20/09, 7:53 PM  

I've not heard of this series... anyway I'm not sure if this book is for me though. I've too many series to catch up on!! :P

Anonymous,  7/20/09, 8:23 PM  

Thanks for noting Anna Fields as being a quality narrator. I'm looking at getting some audiobooks for my father again, after he lost interest because of a few poorly narrated stories.

Kim 7/20/09, 10:50 PM  

Well, at first, as I was reading your review I thought maybe I would give this one a try, even though it isn't my typical genre. But,when I finished reading the review, I decided maybe not. Too many other books on my pile that seem like a surer hit for me. Thanks for such an honest and thoughtful review.

Ana S. 7/21/09, 9:06 AM  

That's so odd about the repeated paragraphs! This doesn't sound like one for me either, though I do love detailed characterization.

Melissa 7/21/09, 10:59 AM  

I have this one on my reminder list on the library for the audio, but I think I'll put it off for a while. Thanks for the review!

Darlene 7/21/09, 10:59 AM  

I've never heard of this author before but the premise of the book sounds good. It would have to be one I'd listen to though, not read. Thanks for the review.

Anonymous,  7/21/09, 6:22 PM  

Love this book! I discovered the series by accident. I have purchased several of the series on audio book and am almost finished with the second one, or maybe the third.

Excellent story and I was not sure I would like them because of the legal aspect, not really my cup of tea, but great stories.

Karen Syed

The Reading Momster 7/22/09, 2:04 AM  

Not heard of this series really! Well I am not really sure if I can take this one :) Thank You :)

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