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Bloodlines: An Irene Kelly Novel    by Jan Burke order for
by Jan Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Simon & Schuster, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Bloodlines, Irene Kelly warms up a cold case, one with links to her own early days in journalism, and predicated on a deliberate campaign of vengeance that has hurt some of the men and women she admires most. The story flows through four different time periods - in 1936, when Irene's friend and journalism mentor Conn O'Connor is a paperboy for the Las Piernas News Express; in 1958, when Conn's father figure, friend and mentor, Jack Corrigan is beaten and left for dead; in 1978 when Irene first clashes with, and then works alongside O'Connor; and in the present day (2000) when Irene finally wins justice, as well as answers to a set of puzzles that Jan Burke developed through the novel.

Corrigan and O'Connor both cope with private tragedy. Conn's beloved older sister Maureen disappears, her body later found with two other corpses. A young woman, Katy (who called Corrigan 'Uncle Jack' and was loved dearly by him), also disappears, presumably at sea, where her in-laws' boat is found empty of passengers. At the same time, on land, her infant son Max is kidnapped and his nurse murdered. Afterwards, the only survivor, Katy's brother-in-law Warren, ponders having made 'deals with the devil', Mitch Yeager. Corrigan, who attended the party that preceded the boat trip, is found brutally beaten - he remembers seeing a bloody car being buried in a farmer's field, but can't pin down the location, and is not believed. The case haunts all involved in it, and puzzles the reader.

Though O'Connor was Irene's journalistic hero, they clash after she's hired (as only the second female newsroom reporter the paper has had) by the Express. Over time, they work together and Irene hones her craft under Conn's mentorship (Corrigan has died at this point). During this period, Warren Ducane meets Mitch Yeager's adopted son Kyle, and comes to believe that he's his missing nephew Max. He offers the young man an inheritance, subject to his changing his name. Irene meets and befriends the young man. Then, a car, with mummified bodies in the trunk, is unearthed from what was once farmland during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new shopping center. Irene is intrigued by the cold case. She meets, and begins to work with, police detective Philip Lefebvre. She also comes into harm's way.

Fast forward to 2000. O'Connor has now died, but Irene is deeply interested by new information on the murders of the young women found with the corpse of Conn's sister Maureen. She digs into old papers of her mentor's looking for clues. At the same time, Max's recent engagement prompts him to look harder into his heritage. And, decades after the original crime, a witness decides to speak out. Irene investigates, inadvertently imperilling cub reporters, whom she herself is mentoring. At great personal risk, she deciphers the history of the Yeager catechism - 'You want to make your enemy suffer, you kill the people he loves and hide the bodies - you make him wonder if they're alive or dead. Nothing is worse than that.'

Though Bones remains my all-time favorite of the irrepressible Irene's adventures, Bloodlines comes close behind. The question of what happened to the baby drives a plot that spans generations while nicely filling in Irene's own journalistic backstory - I particularly enjoyed the mentoring tradition, which passed on integrity as well as skills. Other threads of mistakes and redemption run through this rich tapestry of a tale, in which Irene finally wins 'a little sweet justice for Katy' and other victims of a vindictive puppetmaster.

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