In the Belly of Jonah is the first in a series featuring Liz Bergen and FBI Agent Streeter Pierce. When the body of Jill Brannigan, one of Liz's summer interns, is discovered brutally murdered and mutilated, Liz becomes involved in the investigation because one of the FBI Agents is a college friend.
Because she so badly wants the killer brought to justice and because FBI Profiler Lisa Henry is someone she knows well, Liz offers her home as a place to stay when Lisa and Streeter Pierce are unable to find hotel rooms. This puts Liz close to the investigation, but not really included. However, because of her knowledge of the victim and certain aspects of mining technology, she is able to make some observations that pan out well for the investigators.
For a first novel (and the first in a series), the author does a good job of setting up the characters. Although Agent Streeter Pierce will evidently feature strongly in successive novels, his role here is somewhat limited. Brannon concentrates her attention on the development of Liz's character.
What worked best for me was the establishment of Liz's life, both her family involvement and her work background, including her friend Joe. This information is not terribly detailed, just enough to give you a sense of Liz's work, friends, and family that can be detailed more fully in future books. I don't think Liz is nearly fully-formed yet, but don't you think that is part of the pleasure? Watching a character evolve?
One of the best things about discovering a new author with a debut book is knowing that you can watch the author continue to develop and refine techniques, plots, and characters.
I'm not especially thrilled by the weirdness of the murders. Have you noticed how often current mystery/crime novels have strange, gruesome, fantastic murders? Maybe this one bothered me a bit more because I liked the victim, despite the little we get to know about her.
Next in the series is Lot's Return to Sodom. This may be one that I'll download as an e-book for the trip to Scotland.
Oh, ho! I take that back...Amazon Kindle is offering Lot's Return to Sodom as a FREE download. Said and done! Can't beat that.
Kay (thanks again, Kay!) sent me her copy and now I get the next book for free, too!
Other Reviews: Kay's Random Acts of Reading, Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile, Book Visions
Fiction. Mystery/Crime. 2010. 252 pages.