BOOK REVIEW: Offbeat characters populate mystery
"The Sleeping and the Dead" (Minotaur Books), by Jeff Crook :: Jackie Lyons is living one of those sad, out of control lives, some of which she doesn't remember and some of which she wishes she didn't remember.
A former detective in the Memphis Police Department vice squad, Jackie learned about the things she was covering all too well, especially the drugs she was supposed to be cleaning up but ended up taking instead.
Now she's on the wrong side of 40, semiclean, mostly because she cannot afford to buy the drugs she needs to get high. She's separated, but not divorced, and her ex-husband may be stalking her, or she just may be paranoid. It's the holidays, and Jackie tries to dodge spending them with her parents, unable to stand their silent disapproval.
She's barely making ends meet by working as a photographer with a very specialized niche.
Jackie shoots pictures of traffic accidents that she sells to personal injury attorneys, and she also shoots pictures of crime scenes for the police department. She not only sells photos to the cops, but also to collectors with a taste for the macabre.
Jackie also has the ability to see dead people, an ability that has become so familiar to her that she barely notices it and certainly doesn't find it frightening. But when the dead start showing up in the photos she takes with a new camera, and as the images start getting clearer, Jackie begins to get an idea of the identity of the notorious "Playhouse Killer."
The killer stages extremely brutal murders and arranges them as scenes from plays, hence the name.
Set in a murky stretch of rain that shuts out or shuts in much of the action around her, the mystery draws readers into Jackie's dark and dysfunctional world.
Jeff Crook is a former technical writer for the U.S. Postal Service and the author of several fantasy books. His first mystery sets a high standard that readers can only hope he matches consistently from now on.