Avarice by Annie Bellet

Avarice by Annie BelletAvarice lives up to its subtitle Pyrrh Considerable Crimes Division perfectly. It reminds me a bit of Tamara Siler Jones’ fantasy police novels though this is following modern procedures more closely. I was also doing a binge watch of Castle when I read Avarice, and the commonalities between this novel and the contemporary police work in the TV show were amusing, but I found, at the heart, the draw to both was the same: the characters. The book and program are also both episodic with the book focused around one murder like most of the episodes of Castle do.

Zhivana and Parshan are complicated characters with secrets and a drive to help people even when they would be in real trouble if anyone discovered what they hide. Parshan is also wracked with guilt and grief over the loss of his old partner (in both life and police work), making for an interesting dynamic because he doesn’t want to become close only to lose again. This makes him both angry at the world and somewhat unpredictable as that anger makes him lash out. What he doesn’t know, because Zhivana will do anything to keep him from discovering this, is she can’t be hurt and suspects she cannot die.

The answers to those mysteries are revealed later, but the hints and teases early on create a lovely layer of mystery on top of mystery, making the reader just as eager for the information about the characters as piecing together the mystery of the murder.

Speaking of the murder, the actual case has neat twists and the same kind of putting together disparate information as I’ve enjoyed in Castle, plus the main team is likely to bend the rules and ignore politics in favor of justice for their victim. In this case, as with most mysteries I read, the existence of additional questions is welcome since I pegged the mastermind early on. The case has good seeding that most would notice only in retrospect, but the character interactions and the complex world building kept me going even when the characters didn’t recognize a clue I’d picked up on for a bit. Between the character interactions and the story behind the crime that they put together, I was perfectly happy to ride it out until I learned whether I was right or not.

The layering in of character and world details is also done well. Zhivana is not human. We learn that almost immediately. However, the details of her nature are parceled out like a dot-to-dot picture where you see it take form as you go rather than knowing what you’re trying to reveal. There’s never a huge dump of information, most of which I’d forget soon after reading. Instead, it’s a movement here, a coloration there, and a fact tossed in only where relevant. There were many secondary characters that I connected with as well, making this introduction to Pyrrh a fascinating and multi-layered event.

I had a lot of fun with the read.

P.S. This is one of the books that was in the Story Bundle with Shafter.

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