The Poser (Pat Norelli #1), by David Temple

Seven stars

The thrill of discovering a new author is heightened when the writing and story make for an electrifying read. David Temple has done just that with this series debut, putting a gritty detective in the middle of a complex murder case. LAPD Detective Patricia ‘Pat’ Norelli is used to the bright lights, having grown up in the shadow of her father, a legal legend. However, when he admits that there are some troubles that could cost him everything, Norelli is keen to help. That will have to wait, as a television star is found dead at her home, an apparent suicide that does not present entirely as it should. With the killer out there, Norelli and her partner will have to dig through the clues and find out who is targeting people and posing them off as suicidal castoffs. Temple does well to set the scene with this novel, offering up a decent procedural in the heart of Hollywood.

Detective Pat Norelli has never been afraid of the limelight, though she’s rarely seen it herself, as her father has hogged it for a long time. Once a lawyer and now a judge, the elder Norelli’s time coming to an end and with retirement close at hand. It appears someone has high hopes of extinguishing the justice early, unless he helps fix a little criminal problem. Detective Norelli is understandably worried, but unable to focus too much of her attention on it just yet.

When television star, Meredith Johansen turns up dead in her bedroom, having slit her throat and left a suicide note, the community is abuzz. However, when Norelli and her partner, Brown, arrive at the scene, something does not ring entirely true. The angle and depth of the cut lead Norelli and Brown to wonder if this was staged, though a motive is not entirely clear.

Working all the angles at their disposal, Norelli and Brown soon discover that the victim’s fame was not entirely tied to her television career, but that she had a secret life away from the small screen. Her escapades with many—men and women alike—may have created a significant amount of jealousy for some, though could it have been enough to kill? Add to that, her current flame comes off as being quite cocky, in all senses of the word.

While Norelli works to fit the pieces together, she is struggling with things in her personal life. A recommendation from her superior to see a popular therapist seems to help, as Norelli is soon able to sift through much of the personal detritus she has piling up. The man seems well respected, having a long list of top clients, as though that is the tell-tale sign of success. Still, there’s something that’s said in sessions that offers Norelli some insight into her case at just the right moment.

With more bodies appearing in staged suicide poses, Norelli begins to wonder if the killer has a fixation that cannot be quenched. She races to connect the dots, worried that if she lags too much, the killer will slip through her fingers. It’s only when the target turns on her that Norelli realises just how complex the web is and how she’s sure to get trapped unless she can remain one step ahead.

David Temple provides the reader with a decent story here, offering all the elements of a strong police procedural. He uses these elements to his advantage and the reader is swept into a well-crafted piece that moves along, while adding the element of surprise at various points. While the series is only getting started, I have high hopes for Temple and those within the pages of this collection. With a second novel on the horizon, one can only hope that there is more action of this caliber to come.

Pat Norelli proves to be a great protagonist in this piece, offering up a mix of strong crime fighting abilities with the urge to create her own narrative. Having lived in the shadow of her successful father, she seeks to stand alone whenever possible, without forgetting her roots. The grit and determination found within the piece helps to shape her, balanced effectively with the personal side Norelli seeks not to hide, through her familial ties and playing the role of a mother to a daughter who is just trying to find her way. There is still a great deal about the Norelli character that remains a mystery, something that I hope Temple expands upon in the coming novels.

With any series debut, there are a number of characters in a supporting role that catch my eye, some of whom I hope to see enter further novels, while others were fine as one-offs. Temple does well to create these individuals to complement Norelli, though it is hard to tell how they will effectively be utilised in other pieces. The good-bad balance is surely there in this story, keeping the reader connected to a number of characters for a variety of reasons, though none leapt out at me as being ‘must haves’ for the next piece, save perhaps, Stuart Brown, Norelli’s partner and a new father himself.

David Temple does well in developing this story. The genre is surely supersaturated with stories and characters trying to make the streets safer in a detective role. Los Angeles itself is full of gumshoes and homicide teams, scouring the streets for killers and those who would do harm. While there was nothing earth shattering about Pat Norelli, her presence was well presented and left me wanting to know a little more. Short, swift chapters pushed the story forward and left me wanting a little more, while the narrative’s momentum kept the story clipping along. The book utilised some decent twists throughout to keep the reader guessing and while it would not keep me up well into the night, the story was entertaining, something I needed at that point in time. I am definitely off to get the second novel to see what awaits Norelli and the handful of others who are surely a part of this next adventure.

Kudos, Mr. Temple, for a great series debut. Let’s see what else you have to entertain readers with the next in this series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: