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    Review of COFFIN KNOWS THE ANSWER by Gwendoline Butler

    Thomas Dunne, St. Martin's Minotaur, April 2003

    Police chief John Coffin is obsessed with his wife, Stella, but that doesn't mean that his fears for her are unfounded. When a serial killer starts his work, Coffin notices that the victims all seem to have a tie to his wife. When nasty pictures and body parts show up addressed to his wife, Coffin sets his Second City London police force into action. That action, unfortunately, seems mostly to be going to meetings where they report that nothing has happened, but nothing eliminates Coffin's certainty that Stella is at the center of the crisis.

    Author Gwendoline Butler (see more reviews of mysteries by Butler) uses a completely English vocabulary. American readers like myself can almost hear the English accent and phrasing coming through. Frequent head-hopping sometimes makes the story hard to follow. Given the level of introspection in the many point-of-view characters, it is surprisingly difficult to summon up much sympathy for any of the characters--criminal or police. While it is occasionally tempting to agree with the mysterious killer that the self-obsessed Stella could be done without, casual serial killing is certainly not the answer. The cure is almost certainly in Butler's delete key.

    For me, an exciting police procedural should have at least some of the following elements: (1) clever police work; (2) a plan of attack on the part of the police; (3) potential suspects (red herrings); (4) some sort of relationship amongst the members of the police; (5) sympathetic characters; (6) realistic details that show research into actual police procedure; (7) clever or witty dialogue; (8) a well motivated criminal. I think the minimum number of these elements should be about two. COFFIN KNOWS THE ANSWER doesn't quite reach that milestone.

    One Star

    Reviewed 5/21/03

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