Spectrum, by Alan Jacobson (2014)

SpectrumThis sixth title in the Karen Vail series goes back in time to her start as a rookie on the NYPD force in 1996. First day on the job and she’s called to a homicide scene, what becomes only the first of a serial killing spree in New York City that spans nearly two decades. The book also slides even further back in time, to 1973 in the Astoria neighbourhood of Queens where a young Greek family’s lives are destroyed by a chance encounter with a crazy couple connected to the mob. The reader soon begins to draw connections between the two stories, but the real meat is in Karen Vail’s backstory as a young police officer, which makes it a great standalone novel, a fine entry point for new readers, and a rich story for series fans. New York City landmarks, from the Statue of Liberty to the High Line, play key roles in the mystery, so it is also entertaining reading for anyone who knows the city. Jacobson has done his research into police procedures and current technology as well, adding authenticity to a very modern story arc that raises questions, for me at least, about privacy and surveillance on city streets. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery, figuring out the solution just ahead of the cops (always fun!) and enjoyed Vail’s sassy, no-holds-barred attitude. There are a few weak points – she is occasionally a little too cocky for a newbie, and the story of her marriage and motherhood rings false somehow. I expect Jacobson was giving the backstory to how she became a single parent, but it felt like a patch job, inserted like an afterthought. Otherwise, a thoroughly enjoyable romp from the 70s to modern day, with appropriate cultural and tech references adding to a fast-paced and entertaining police procedural.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20977834


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