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Flawed: A Brodie Farrell Mystery    by Jo Bannister order for
by Jo Bannister
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Jo Bannister's latest top-notch Brodie Farrell mystery showcases an ensemble cast of characters who are - in varying degrees - significantly flawed.

There is, first of all, Daniel Hood, the former math teacher who - because of his tortured past and troubled psyche - must now remain away from the classroom; instead, with a determination bordering on the irrational, Daniel works - if that is the correct word - as a loyal and affectionate assistant to Brodie Farrell.

Brodie Farrell, for her part, as owner of the Looking for Something? agency, is a fiercely independent divorced mother of a six-year old daughter, but dramatic changes in her circumstances are about to turn Brodie's life upside-down and force her to reexamine her former romantic relationship with police detective Jack Deacon.

Jack Deacon, according to at least one source, is 'a damned good detective' who 'could be relied on to shout a lot, and be inventively unpleasant at the least provocation.' He would, however, 'also hold the line between good and evil if it took every ounce of strength and every drop of courage he possessed. He didn't tolerate laziness, sloppiness or lack of commitment.' He was, in the final analysis, 'an outstanding police officer,' but his friendship with Terry Walsh is about to exacerbate his already complicated life.

Terry Walsh, ostensibly a legitimate businessman, is now under investigation by the Serious Organized Crime Agency, and that agency's investigator, Alix Hyde, is now putting considerable pressure on Walsh (and Deacon as well as Deacon's assistant, the na´ve but enthusiastic Charlie Voss) in her attempt to bring Walsh to justice; Walsh, however, is not one who will be easily cornered by law enforcement officials, and with the determined attorney Adam Selkirk representing him, Walsh - even with his alleged activities involving illegal drugs, the illicit sex trade, international crime figures, and murder - remains confident that not even the over-zealous Hyde (and Deacon and Voss) can touch him.

Adam Selkirk, because of his profession, is no stranger to law enforcement officials, but when his son Noah Selkirk seems to be the victim of parental abuse, the elder Selkirk suddenly finds himself enmeshed in a complicated intersection of personalities whose singular flaws and obsessive interests threaten to destroy one or more of the characters in Flawed.

What unfolds in Northern Ireland author Jo Bannister's taut novel is a thoughtful meditation on two important questions: First, is one person's life worth more or less than another's? Second, if the obvious solutions (in life as well as in mysteries) are most often correct (as has been postulated in Occam's Razor), why are there so often such troubling exceptions and disturbing bombshells - all of which ultimately make perfect sense (when viewed retrospectively)?

Join Bannister's cast of characters, and share in the fascinating intersection of her exquisitely rendered individuals - each of them flawed in disturbingly, recognizably familiar ways (as if a mirror were being held up to each of us). Filled with surprises and thoroughly entertaining, this provocative novel is highly recommended.

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