Cheri and Megan Review The Shoal of Time by J. M. Redmann

After the last installment of J. M. Redmann’s Micky Knight series, Ill Will, Megan and I spent a good two weeks talking about how the book affected us. Megan shed a lot of tears and I mostly just shook my head and wondered if the author would follow the storyline through to the most logical end. We had to wait many months for our answers but we finally got them in the newly released The Shoal of Time.

Megan and I are double teaming this one. We’re going to state right away that it’s going to be very hard to keep this a spoiler-free review but we’re going to do it. Before we begin with the summary, I want to say that this isn’t a book to read if you’ve not, at the very least, read Ill Will.

Megan, you want to give a brief summary?

Megan: Why do I always get the summary?

The Shoal of Time is the eighth installment of the Micky Knight series. This is a series that you need to read in order as the underlying plots and characters continue throughout each book. If you haven’t read the series, stop reading this review because all kinds of spoilers for the previous books will be cropping up. The Shoal of Time takes place several months after Ill Will … New Orleans is still recovering from Katrina and Micky is alone. This is exactly what I dreaded after reading Ill Will. Seemingly at loose ends, Micky heads out one evening for dinner and overhears a conversation at the table next to her. A bit of flirtation with the cute red head in the group and Micky ends up offering her PI services to a group of Feds who are investigating potential human trafficking in New Orleans. Providing them with a tour of the seedier sides of town and, after a run in with some rather nasty smugglers, Micky finds herself getting deeper and deeper into the investigation, taking it on herself to pursue several leads. Enter a rather hot FBI agent that has it in for (and the hots for) Micky, and things become even more dangerous as Micky tries to figure out who she can trust and who’s telling the truth.

Okay … so that’s the back of the book type blurb.

Cheri: That’s why you get the job of summarizing! You’re so good at it!

Ok, so we’ve got the potential for an interesting case and we don’t know for several chapters exactly what happened to Cordelia to have Micky in her current solo situation. Micky is sad and alone and trying to figure out how to move on with her life. Like previous books in the series, Micky tends to be her own biggest enemy. Her drinking isn’t out of control but she’s removed herself from all of her friends – we don’t hear from any of the old gang in this book – and she’s second guessing every aspect of her life.

Megan: I’ve always said that Micky is best when she’s fucking up. She’s a much more nuanced character when she’s vulnerable and struggling with her own demons. As much as I loved her and Cordelia together – a domesticated Micky wasn’t the same. This book brings some of that old Micky back – but as she’s aged over the series, her vulnerability and self doubt are hitting her a bit harder and I think led her down a few paths that old Micky would never have stumbled down. The mystery part of this book was not as satisfying as some of the other books – but for me, the Micky Knight stories are more about the characters. I wanted to throttle Micky a few times but after a bit of reflection, what happened off the page left her so desperate for some sort of validation or love that she could be forgiven for being a bit of an idiot when it came to figuring stuff out.

When I read the first few chapters, I had this inescapable feeling of dread whenever Cordelia was mentioned … or not mentioned. I was desperate to know and not wanting to know. Redmann must have had a hard time with developing this plot – Cordelia was so polarizing in the last two books that I`m sure she was beset by readers who wanted her killed off (eaten by alligators was one of my suggestions) or for a happily ever after ending where the author waves a wand and makes all the emotional turmoil experienced by both characters in the last few books just faded away as Micky and Cordlia rode off in to the sunset. By the time the truth came out – I was so angry and upset. Possibly as angry and upset as I was with what happened in Death of a Dying Man. I almost wanted to stop reading because the betrayal was almost personal.

Cheri: I completely agree with you on the Cordelia aspects of the past few books. I do, however, think you’re much more forgiving about Micky’s detective skills in this one than I am. Maybe because the case was so intertwined with every other aspect of the book that made it impossible for me to ignore the mystery and focus on the personal relationships instead. From the first interactions about the case, it seemed obvious that all was not what it seemed. For me, that made the only thing left to figure out was how the Cordelia situation was going to shake out. I think this was the first time I ever thought that it may be time for Micky to retire.

Megan: Agreed. This was not Micky`s shining hour in PI work. Although she was rather gullible and there were several instances where I raised my eyebrow to say “Really?”, I’m willing to cut her a bit of slack because of the shit that happened between the books. Bad choices and Micky Knight go together like Peanut Butter and honey (I don’t like jam). But I’ve always had more than a bit of a girl crush on Micky. As much as I didn’t like the mystery part – I do think that by the end of the book she seemed to be getting her shit together and I think that the next book will have her a bit more settled and sure of herself – and less prone to choosing the worst possible course of action every single time. 🙂

Despite the issues around the mystery and perhaps a bit of “over the top” with the Cordelia situation, I think that if someone has read the Micky Knight series, this is one that should be picked up. I’m hoping that this is a transition book – bringing back the bad ass Micky Knight who is full of sarcasm, piss, and vinegar.

Cheri: I still don’t know that I agree with you, Megan, but I’ve always been tougher on Micky than you have. I think the only character in the series I’ve ever been close to having a crush on is Alex and there was no Alex in this book. Maybe that’s why I’m disappointed. It may have nothing at all to do with the case or the way the Cordelia plot line was (un)resolved. I just needed some Alex.

Megan: Micky’s relationships with Danny, Joanne, Alex, Torbin, etc always gave the books a great sense of humour as well as a way of humanizing Micky. It was disappointing that the regular cast of supporting characters were nowhere to be found in this book. Redmann establishes early on that Micky has either frozen them out or that they’ve grown apart. It’s something that had started in the last few books, so although I missed them, I wasn’t surprised that this was a Micky on her own kind of book. There are some interesting new characters introduced. I like the FBI agent. 🙂

I’m judging this book as part of the overall series as opposed to as a standalone. It is by no means the best of the eight books – but I think that things in the book needed to happen in order to close out some of the emotional turmoil of the last few.

I think we could both agree that in the next book Micky needs to 1) brush up on her detective skills and not get taken advantage of, 2) build a new support group of smart, funny, and hot friends, 3) stop drinking that expensive scotch and buy some groceries (going to restaurants gets her into trouble, and 3) sleep with the FBI agent.

Cheri: I don’t think I can add much more to that, except I think you have terrible taste in women. Except for my wife. You’re right on the money with her. I’m not sold on the FBI agent. I want Micky to find a nice, sweet woman who will not second guess her all the time and make her feel like a loser. Damn you, Cordelia! No, I can’t let go of anything that she did from just before Katrina right on to the end. Booo!

So the bottom line is that if you’ve read the rest of the Micky Knight series, you absolutely have to read this one. It’s a requirement. If you’ve not read the series, well, I guess you really should because it’s a great series. Like Megan said, some books are better than others but I still think it’s well done with gritty cases, difficult personal situations, and never a happily ever after.

You can purchase or download a sample of The Shoal of Time by clicking here..

Ill Will by J. M. Redmann

20120309-201344.jpgTo steal a phrase from the book, “holy fuck balls!” I finished Ill Will about a half hour ago and wanted to get my review done before any of the emotion slipped away. This is the seventh in the Micky Knight series and it is definitely one of my favorites.

Ill Will finds Micky and Cordelia together again, pretty happily I might add, after the trials and tribulations they withstood in Water Mark. Two years have passed and Micky and her friends are still trying to put their lives back together. Some of them seem to be having a better go of accomplishing it than others.

This book has Micky working two cases – both dealing with the health care industry in some way – and, of course, there are some nasty figures trying to do some harm to Micky. I read a review copy of the book, one of the few perks I sometimes get, so I don’t know if the blurb that’s listed now will be the final one but I did find the last part to be a bit misleading. Yes, someone close to Micky has cancer and there is lots of discussion of our broken health care system but the mysteries don’t really have a lot of direct impact on the cancer-haver until very close to the end. The majority of the book is Micky doing what Micky does – solving cases while dealing with her inner demons.

This Micky Knight seems more mature, calm, and domesticated than in previous books. She seems more thoughtful to me. There is also much less interaction with her friends, in general. Most of them make an appearance but, with few exceptions, they are mostly absent. I have to say, this is the first of the series where I haven’t hated her friends. And I usually hate them quite a bit. Well, I tend to like Alex. I don’t think she’s ever treated Micky like shit.

Some of you may remember me making a comment to Ms. Redmann when she appeared on Cocktail Hour about how easy her mysteries usually are for me to solve. While there’s one point that I’m surprised Micky didn’t pick up on – which I won’t share here – I have to say, the author got me on this one. I had most of it all figured out but there was one big part that I was surprised by so I tip my hat to Jean Redmann for putting in a nice twist and making my jaw drop. I will also say that I had a lump in my throat and tears brimming as I finished the last couple of pages.

I’ll wrap this review up by saying that if you have enjoyed the previous books in this series, you won’t be disappointed in this one. At all. Ms. Redmann delivers a great read and keeps the series going strong. She’s one of the few authors that can keep her readers begging for more after so many books. We never tire of Micky Knight or her life of ups and downs, loves and losses, and twists and turns. I can honestly say that I’ve never been engaged enough in a character to read past four or five books in a series but when number eight comes out, I’ll be buying it as soon as I can.

Ill Will (Micky Knight Mystery 7) by J. M. Redmann