In many respects, the fourth Riley Spartz mystery by Minnesota author Julie Kramer is her best yet.
Though "Killing Kate" follows the same basic plot as the previous books - a series of slow news days comes to an abrupt halt with a dastardly and ratings-grabbing crime - the writing is so crisp, it will keep readers turning the pages.
TV reporter-investigative journalist Spartz is at her feistiest, the dialogue is at its sharpest and the main plot is chillingly suspenseful. There's plenty of action and a jaw-dropping penultimate scene that sets up the potential for another book in the series.
Spartz traces a serial killer, whose signature is drawing chalk outlines shaped like angels around the bodies of his victims, back to a monument in an Iowa cemetery. On orders from her ratings-hungry boss, she's also pursuing every possible angle of a story involving a dog who dies after being trapped in a car on a hot day.
It's the best of both worlds for fans of this series as both plots allow Kramer to further develop relationships established in her first book, "Stalking Susan." For example, the conflict between animal-lover boss Noreen, whose bottom line is beating the competition in ratings, and Spartz, who wants to get back to traditional investigative reporting, continues to be one of the main points of tension in the novel, and for once the two women are very nearly on the same side.
Yet I fear "Killing Kate" will also be polarizing. For the first time, Spartz shares narrative space with the killer himself, which might have worked if Kramer hadn't given everything away. Readers will know who the killer is, including his name, where he works and his motivations, before Spartz even gets close, and for those who prefer to puzzle out the mystery on their own, this will make for a disappointing and dissatisfying read.