McCafferty’s Nine by Elizabeth Gunn (Severn House, 2007) is the seventh in the Jake Hines police procedural series. (Why the series started with Triple Play and skipped the numbers one and two is an enduring mystery.) These books are set in fictional Rutherford, Minnesota, a medium-sized city about two hours from Minneapolis that’s large enough to have big-city problems but not a big-city budget to deal with them.
Jake started out as a detective on the city police force and in this book has been promoted to Chief of Detectives where he is learning how to manage the work of his team instead of doing it himself. There’s lots of work for them: a mugger is growing progressively more violent and a credit card fraud scheme is costing the city’s merchants plenty. He wrangles the never-ending paperwork of his job while his staff sets up decoys to catch the mugger before someone is seriously hurt. The sting is successful but a similar crime takes place elsewhere at the same time, sending the department back to their investigative drawing board.
On the homefront his wife Trudy, star of the forensics section in the Minnesota Bureau of Crime Apprehension, is about to give birth to their first child. Jake is beside himself with anxiety. He was abandoned in a dumpster when he was a few hours old and was raised in a series of foster homes. With no family or family history, he has no idea what to expect. His anxiety gives rise to a recurrence of old nightmares that he is afraid to tell anyone about.
Jake and Trudy live in an old rundown farmhouse midway between their two jobs. After nearly freezing the first winter they lived there, they decided to renovate, which makes another entertaining subplot. Their negotiations with the local conniving contractors they need to do the heavy work was a high point in an earlier book.
A large part of the charm of this first-rate series lies with the characters and their relationships with each other. They are down to earth and realistically lifelike. Any of them could live one street over or sit in the next office. Jake does not minimize the limitations of his childhood which led to gaps in his education that he’s sensitive about but he takes responsibility for who he is now. His first-person narration of police work seamlessly interwoven with domesticity is a satisfying read. Booklist starred review.
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Severn House Publishers; First Edition edition (August 1, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0727865145
- ISBN-13: 978-0727865144
Aubrey Hamilton © 2017
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.