Friday, May 29, 2009

"Palos Verdes Blue" by John Shannon

While I have heard of the Jack Liffey Mystery s, written by John Shannon, I have never read one before. I was fortunate enough to get a review copy of Palos Verdes Blue, which is the eleventh book in the series. I was a little worried that starting on book eleven would put me at a disadvantage, but luckily, that wasn't the case.

Palos Verdes is southern California city. It is also the name of an extremely endangered species of butterfly, native to only a single site on the Palos Verdes peninsula. It is actually the rarest butterfly on earth. And it is the starting point of Jack Liffey's investigation into the disappearance of a high school aged activist, Blaine "Blue" Hostetler. The daughter of his ex-wife's best friend, she has been missing for a couple days, and Jack has been enlisted to find her and bring her home.

His investigation takes him into the often ignored world of poverty that is the reality of the illegal immigrants that live and work in affluent communities of So Cal. There he meets Jaime, a young immigrant fleeing a sordid past of his own. Also, and unbeknownst to Jack, his seventeen year-old daughter Maeve (a classmate of the missing Blue), begins to investigate the disappearance as well. Although facing troubling issues of her own, Maeve soon begins to dig up significant clues, and makes some fairly insightful observations as to the possible location of the missing girl.

I really enjoyed Palos Verdes Blue, which could easily have been a stand-alone novel and not part of a series. I never felt like I was missing anything, however the characters were so richly drawn and believable, I will probably be hunting down books one thru ten simply to delve into their collective pasts, which were alluded to in this installment. In addition to multi-dimensional characters, Palos Verdes Blue was also a very relevant read, with much of its plot focusing on the subject of illegal immigration and the treatment of immigrants in this country. It was a stark reminder that many of us spend a lot of time with our blinders on, blissful in our deliberate ignorance of controversial issues.

On top of all of the rest, Palos Verdes Blue was also a great mystery, with enough red herrings and potential suspects and outcomes to keep you guessing until the end. There was also enough of a cliff hanger at the end (relating to the family drama and such, not the mystery itself) to make me anxious for the release of book twelve. Of course, between now and then I will be able to catch up on the volumes I have missed. Easily a four star read, one I would enthusiastically recommend to anyone.

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