Blue Ice: A Palmer Morel Mystery
By Larry Rochelle
BookSurge (2005) Amazon $15.99
Reviewed by Lynn O’Connell for Reader Views (1/07)
Tennis pro Palmer Morel’s life is filled with mayhem and a string of colorful women in this novel, the eighth in the mystery series. The novel begins the day before Thanksgiving, as Kansas City begins to prepare for its holiday season. Morel, just turning 40 and made a millionaire by an inheritance, has decided to settle down. He plans to marry his pregnant girlfriend and to leave the tennis circuit by buying a downtown historic building, The Ibis, which he will renovate and reopen as a movie theatre.
Morel has a few obstacles to overcome first, however. Perhaps, most importantly, the Mafia is the current owner of The Ibis and has been hiding dead bodies there since the 1960s. The city also plans to demolish the building for its own renovation projects. And, finally, Morel most fend off the nearly dozen women in the novel who are all attracted to him.
Weather, usually a factor in Rochelle’s mysteries, does indeed play a role here as a deadly ice storm moves into Kansas City that Thanksgiving weekend. At the same time, a shootout takes place at The Ibis and the police declare the building a crime scene. Then, during the annual Plaza lighting ceremony, a child’s doll catches fire and sets the whole Plaza ablaze. These incidents should give you just an idea of the fast pace of the book’s events and why it might be considered an action/adventure novel as much as a mystery.
The book and series are a wonderful find for me as a mystery reader. However, keep in mind that the book contains significant Mob-related violence and graphic sex, so it might not be for every mystery-loving fan.
The novel held my attention, and I found it easy to keep the more than 20 characters straight. Each chapter in Rochelle’s novel includes 5-8 different vignettes, involving different characters in each one. This kept each character fresh in my mind. And, voila, by the ending, all characters were indeed tied together.
Rochelle’s success with this book may be two-fold. First, the Palmer Morel character is fully developed and, sure enough, the book ends leaving the reader with questions and waiting for the ninth book in the series. Also, Rochelle knows Kansas City and its environs as well as the jazz scene in the area. I have only been to Kansas City a few times, but I could easily envision the places about which Rochelle writes.
The characters in “Blue Ice” are fascinating and diverse. At one point, I laughed and asked myself: Why would a corrupt police officer, the editor of a Kansas City alternative newspaper and a pregnant nurse all be spending the night in Morel’s house? Norah, appearing on page 7, is a waitress and nude-statue collector who lives in Osawatomie; how in the world does she fit into the storyline? Morel makes it all work by the end.