Entertainment

Bookmonger: Irresistible female PI Fina Ludlow is back in fine form

“Brutality,” Ingrid Thoft

From the very first paragraph in “Brutality,” you will know that you’re in the hands of an exceptionally assured writer. In fact, this is the third installment in the Fina Ludlow series. The action swirls around a tenacious young private investigator who works for her family’s high-profile personal-injury law firm in Boston.

“It was a competitive, lucrative, and sometimes distasteful line of work, but it was theirs, and they were good at it,” Seattle author Ingrid Thoft explains in the early pages.

Much better at it than the familial relations, where dysfunction is in the driver’s seat and the ride is always bumpy.

In this latest installment, Fina (“I have resources”) Ludlow is investigating a violent home attack on soccer mom Liz Barone. The victim is in the intensive care unit with possibly irreparable brain damage, and Liz’s mother has hired Fina to investigate.

This is a side job, but when Fina discovers that Liz recently had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and blamed her condition on her days as a college soccer player, Liz clues in her dad, who recognizes the lucrative potential of sport injury litigation and wants in on the case.

Other interesting details surface – including some sketchy dealings at the booster program and fundraising division of Liz’s alma mater, Liz’s fractious relationship with her difficult boss, and Liz’s surprisingly unengaged husband – so when the doctors finally determine that the victim is brain dead and the family decides to turn off life support, the stakes are raised in a number of ways. And now Fina is investigating a murder.

Fueled by diet soda, junk food and the solace of one of her friends-with-benefits, Fina does her sleuthing all over Beantown. Since the story is set in January, this means a lot of putting on and taking off of boots and gloves and scarves. The author, who is Boston born and raised, nails the settings and the misery of a Boston winter in perfect, frosty detail.

Thoft also has a particular knack for outrageous simile, and she scatters them throughout the book like Easter eggs. Here’s just one example: “He was wearing a mustard-colored sweater that made him look like an oversized jar of Grey Poupon.”

Furthermore, the author expertly wrangles a large cast of beautifully developed characters: Liz’s former teammates, the soccer team doctor from years ago, Fina’s surrogate parents as well as her biological mom and dad and other family members, cops, security guards, retail clerks, under-the-radar hackers, and more. Many of these are red herrings, but by populating the novel with such dynamic and disparate personalities, Thoft makes this fictional world one into which you will be irresistibly, inextricably drawn.

In fact, in this rich tapestry of story lines and subplots, I felt that only one minor thread was dropped inexpertly. There were other subplots that were not concluded, but that’s what sequels are for! Here’s looking forward to installment number four – Fina Ludlow can’t come back soon enough!

The Bookmonger review appears each week in Take Five. For more entertainment, go to BellinghamHerald.com/entertainment.

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