The Night Bird (A Frost Easton Mystery)
By Brian Freeman
This is my very first Cannonball review ever! Hopefully my reviewing skills will improve as we go; I’ve been having a little trouble figuring out how to describe this one.
I am going to start off by fully admitting the main reasons I read this book were: 1) it is set in San Francisco and I’m a sucker for home town stories; and 2) it was free on Kindle through Amazon Prime. As this was the case I went in with pretty much zero expectations, I just wanted something I could read on the bus for a few days.
All that being said; I was very pleasantly surprised by this little book. The main plot surrounds San Francisco Detective Frost Eaton investigating a series of very strange deaths of apparently random women which could all potentially be the result of suicide or severe mental break. The only connection is they all have the same psychiatrist, Francesca Stein, who specializes in an unorthodox, controversial form of therapy.
Dr. Stein is, understandably, concerned that several of her patients are meeting this rather gruesome fates and so she begins her own investigation into why this is happening. This is when first she, and then Frost start receiving taunting messages from The Night Bird which basically confirm that these are not accidents, they are murders, and The Night Bird is responsible.
The plot is good and twisty-turney but not in a completely unbelievable way. I did figure out who did it, but only about 40 pages before the main characters and the answer was satisfying and logical. This is kind of my favorite situation with mysteries, as it lets me feel just a hair superior in that I am smarter than fictional characters. I need these small victories on occasion. I want to be careful about how much more I say about the plot because as with most mysteries, the less you know going in the better.
Frost is an affable Loner With a Past and a good cop. Francesca Stein is a very emotionally isolated, logical scientist with a messed up family life. These are both well-worn archetypes, especially in mysteries, but the author does a good job of fleshing them out enough to make them seem like real people. Overall I really like both the main characters. Some of the more secondary characters, especially the young, pretty key witness/ingénue are more than a little two dimensional but most secondary characters aren’t around enough for it to matter. The cop’s cat was one of the best characters, which will always be a plus in my book.
There was only one thing that really started to bug me, but then after a while became almost humorous. The author is apparently very familiar with the layout and neighborhoods of San Francisco and he wants to make sure everyone knows it. Now, I get very irritated when someone sets a story in my city and then doesn’t bother to even try to have locations make sense or know where one thing is in relation to another. This book is the other extreme; there are times when we literally get turn by turn directions for the route someone takes to get from point A to B. Every bar/ restaurant/ club is a real place (or was, a lot is changing around here way too fast, sadly) which is cool, and a detail I enjoy, but every place is pointed out very carefully, including the street it’s on, so you KNOW that he knows where it is. This was a funny arc for me, started out kinda neat… Then became very annoying… Then looped around to funny. At one point in my head I asked the book “OK, book, but are they going to take the Fourth Street Bridge or 280 to get to that part of town?” By god if the book didn’t answer my question.
Overall, I would recommend this as a great bus book- a light, quick read that is entertaining and just sinister and interesting enough to make the trip pass quickly, but that you don’t mind putting down when you reach your stop.