Thrilling brew of intrigue, impostors and murder in post-World War I Germany

Crime Fiction

May 28, 2006|By SARAH WEINMAN | SARAH WEINMAN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

City of Shadows

Ariana Franklin

Malicious Intent

Kathryn Fox

Harper Paperbacks / 380 pages / $13.95

A good forensic thriller is difficult to find; too many of them rely too heavily on jargon and stock characters to advance the story, leading to too much forensic and not enough thriller. Fortunately, Kathryn Fox, an Australia-based doctor, fuses both elements with a sure touch because she renders her heroine, freelance forensic pathologist Anya Crichton, as a human being whose life is endangered by the work she does.

When this debut opens, Anya is still reeling from losing custody of her son to her ex-husband when he successfully claims that her job is taking too much time. And such claims are bolstered when she is asked to investigate what seems to be the suicide of a Lebanese teenager. But too many discrepancies, laboratory and personally based, raise her suspicions - especially when this suicide is tied to a spate of earlier ones bearing the same hallmarks. And though it follows that Crichton's career and life are in jeopardy, Fox forgoes conventional plot twists for far darker ones that are genuinely surprising. With an appealing heroine, informative forensic detail and a strong sense of Sydney, Malicious Intent is an excellent first effort.

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction monthly for The Sun. Visit her at www.sarahweinman.com.

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