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Book Review: Revenge Served Cold by Jackie Fullerton

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This second book by Jackie Fullerton is an enjoyable amateur detective story following Anne Marshall's attempt to identify a law professor's killer.

When Professor Elliott Spence is killed in a hit and run, the police seem to be ignoring some vital information. Anne Marshall, a court reporter by day and law student by night, can't let it pass and soon becomes involved in an investigation that goes way above her head.

Kathy Spence wakes up one night. Having spent the previous evening drinking rather heavily, she can't remember if she was or wasn't the one driving the car that ran her husband Elliott Spence over. Unfortunately, it's her car, and a witness positively identified a blond woman as the driver.

While it appears to be an open and shut case, some details are a little off. Why would Kathy kill her husband when the couple is known to be loving, devoted and extremely happy? None of the usual signs of unhappiness are there. The thought that an innocent woman might go to jail grabs Anne Marshall's attention. Believing in Kathy's innocence, she starts her own little investigation into the matter, with a little unorthodox help: her dead father, whose ghost regularly visits her.

Sometimes amusing, mostly intriguing, Revenge Served Cold makes for a good summer read. Apart from the visits from her dearly departed father, the story is actually quite believable. The plot is great, but it has obviously been written by a still new author. For one, her voice seems halting; rather than one fluid story, we are instead served (pun intended) pieces of a story. While most of the story's pieces are in themselves fluid, indicative of the author's inherent writing skills, they are not put together in a fluid way.

But just like there are some extremely fluid and well-written parts, others sections of the book are less so. One of the author's mistakes which made parts of the book hard to read was her use of a long series of short sentences, one after the other, in three to four continuous paragraphs. This made big parts of the book feel very halting because the sentences were so short. It made me out of breath. Consequently the flow of the text was halting.

The plot was extremely interesting, and we do have a good book on our hands. However, there are some more changes that would easily turn Revenge Served Cold into an excellent one. For example, the reader knows so much that halfway through the book, we figured out what happened (even before). The problem is that after this point, it becomes really frustrating to follow the protagonist as she makes mistake after mistake during her investigation, following the wrong leads and seemingly forgetting the conclusions she herself drew a mere couple of pages ago. And don’t get me started on how annoying it becomes to follow the shoddy police work. While police officers are humans and thus make many mistakes, the officers in this book are downright stupid, not following simple leads that anyone who watched enough CSI would think of.

Perhaps if, instead, the main antagonist was more mysterious, a fleeting shadow whose corporeality slowly increases as the story comes along, instead being a full fledged part of the story from the beginning, it would be a major improvement, as we the reader would then also be in the dark, alongside the protagonist, rather than being akin to viewers of a B-movie screaming at the blond chick not to open the door.

I would still give Revenge Served Cold a chance for the simple reason that it makes for a good summer read and because I'm looking forward to seeing where Jackie Fullerton will take her stories as her writing experience increases. Until then, I will continue sniffing the air for the smell of tobacco – a tell-tale sign that Anne's father's ghost is around. I have some mysteries I'd like his help to solve.

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