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Night Work    by Laurie R. King order for
Night Work
by Laurie R. King
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2000 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

King gets into a gritty issue in Night Work, that is violence against women. The police are after the The Ladies of Perpetual Disgruntlement for a series of retaliations against men who abuse women. The Ladies stun their victims with a taser and then tie them naked in public places in a painful let the punishment fit the crime motif that appeals emotionally. They publicize and humiliate the miscreants. Then an abuser is murdered and the vigilante Ladies come under suspicion.

In the meantime, Kate and Lee are tentatively settling back into their relationship, damaged when Lee was crippled during an involvement in one of Kate's prior cases. They socialize with old friends, who appear to have ties to the Ladies and also to a women's shelter. In a seemingly unrelated incident, Kate is asked to investigate the suspicious burning of a young Indian bride, being treated as an accident by the police. And the goddess Kali is somehow involved in one or both cases.

My first reaction to Night Work was that the social issue took over the plot - not altogether a bad thing when violence against women is so much in the news lately. However it does make this story a little slower than King's previous works. The topic also spills over to the men in the novel, who are either abusive or two dimensional - Kate's partner Al Hawkins is just plain dull this time around. But King's powerful female characters make up for the dearth of interesting men. These women come in all shapes and sizes from the crusading feminist minister Roz to her very pregnant and still forceful partner Maj, and in the background the vengeful Kali herself.

Though this story is stronger as social commentary than thriller, it is still an absorbing mystery and the (female) characters complex and multi-dimensional. King remains on my must read list, both for this Kate Martinelli series and for her Holmes/Russell books. And if you haven't found the latter yet, try O Jerusalem, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones and another great feminist read.

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