4 out of 4 stars
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Stiletto by Lori Kay is a book in the crime thriller genre. The story follows Detective Hamilton Riggs as he is solving the case of a lifetime.
What do dolls, genetics and drag queens have in common? Detectives Riggs and Frank are about to find out the answer. Both the detectives, of the Chicago Police Department, did not imagine that the most difficult case in their professional careers was going to start in a doll convention. Not just any doll convention, but the famous Destiny Lee doll convention attended by collectors from all around the world. The detectives are assigned the murder investigation of a woman associated with the Destiny Lee tradition. What starts off as a murder investigation, takes the detectives across states, from Chicago to Pennsylvania, to discover the secrets buried in an orphanage, which destroy a family. Will the detectives, with a little help from the FBI, unmask the villain before it is too late?
First off, I should mention that the book is a long read. What makes this book worth every page is the author’s superb writing style. The author has followed the noir-detective style to narrate the story. The author has introduced some really imaginative and unchartered plot twists in the story. She has woven unwed pregnancies, genetic accidents, confused sexuality and a doll obsession seamlessly in her story. Despite the many plot twists and heavy detailing, the book is not difficult to follow. The book is written in third person, covering the story from the perspectives of multiple characters. Apart from the acute mystery element, the emotional element of this book is also thought-provoking. The book is visually strong as well, giving off the impression of watching a television series.
The main story has various sub-plots crisscrossing it, but the author needs to be credited for the effortless manner in which these minor plots fit in, to form a clear picture. There are various likable factors in the story. The first thing I liked about the story is that though it is centered on Riggs, his partner Frank is just as good a detective, if not better. Frank is not the eternal sidekick who is relegated to the background, as is often the case in many crime novels. Secondly, the author tries to make this book as inclusive or open-minded as possible. Initially Riggs, who has his own narrow ideas about manhood, despises the crazy doll fetish he observes in the collectors. Crossdressing and drag queens only add to his disgust. I found his character pretty close-minded and annoying, until the author starts writing about his transformation. People cannot be categorized into clearly marked boxes and judged for their preferences. This is the lesson that Riggs takes away from the case and the transformation in his mindset is heartening. The other plus point in this novel is its well-developed, multi-dimensional, complex characters. Whether it is the smart FBI agent/profiler Kassi Monet, or Rachael, an octogenarian living at the orphanage, whose efforts to help a friend have disastrous results. Even the criminal mastermind of this piece is sketched in such a manner that the readers would find it difficult to not sympathize with him.
The intrigue, unpredictable twists, and a misunderstood villain, make this an exciting novel. I recommend this book to readers who love dark, gritty crime thrillers, with a complicated psychological element. I rate it 4 out of 4 stars.
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