Gerrie Ferris Finger's The End Game already won the 2009 Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. I found that fascinating, because I didn't actually feel as if the book was a traditional mystery as defined by Malice Domestic itself.
Malice Domestic just presented the Agatha Awards. According to their website, "The Agatha Awards honor the 'traditional mystery.' That is to say, books best typified by the works of Agatha Christie as well as others. For our purposes, the genre is loosely defined as mysteries that:
•contain no explicit sex
•contain no excessive gore or gratuitous violence
Materials generally classified as "hard-boiled" are not appropriate."
Don't get me wrong. I thought The End Game was very good for a first effort. But, this mystery included two foster parents burned to death, two dogs killed, victims with slit throats, and the threat that two children would be sold into prostitution. Maybe Malice Domestic doesn't consider that "gratuitous violence" since it did fit in the plot. However, I thought The End Game verged on hard-boiled, rather than traditional. Evidently, that's just my opinion.
Moriah Dru, an ex-cop, was planning to spend the weekend with her lover, police Lieutenant Richard Lake, when they received a call from Juvenile Court Judge Portia Devon. Portia wanted to hire Dru's services to find two children. Dru, now the owner of Child Trace, Inc., searches for missing kids, and the juvenile court system is one of her best clients.
Dru and Lake report to the crime site, where a house has burned down, leaving two dead foster parents, and two sisters missing. As they comb the neighborhood for witnesses, they find plenty of suspects, and plenty of people who seem to have a piece of information. Suspects even include the head of Child Protective Services, a man Dru hates because the agency "lost children in the system, and placed kids back with violent parents." As they question a young friend of the missing girls, and a woman who has her finger on the pulse of the neighborhood, they learn that other girls have disappeared from that same area. Before they can get all of the information they need, witnesses are murdered. Someone is just one step ahead of Dru and Lake.
The End Game is a fast-paced mystery in which the action and deaths never quit. If the book is the start of a series, Dru's business, Child Trace, Inc., will offer a great deal of opportunity for further involvement in crimes. As a series, it shows possibilities.
However, I felt as if there was too much action all in a short time in one neighborhood, everything from fire, kidnapping, murder, explosions, and bad brakes on a car. I can't wait to hear from others who have read The End Game. Is Gerrie Ferris Finger's The End Game a traditional mystery?
Gerrie Ferris Finger's website is www.GerrieFerrisFinger.com
The End Game by Gerrie Ferris Finger. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312611552 (hardcover), 310p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.