"Little Blue Whales"
(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale AUG 26, 2006)
But of course in his gut he knew it probably was the boy, and the one thing he was absolutely sure of was that this was a murder. And whoever had done this had to have driven right through the middle of Cutter Point to get here.
The understanding of the reality of this began to spread throughout Thud’s body like a cold, poisonous chemical concocted from equal parts of fear and rage…violently injected into his nervous system and freezing its way through his veins and arteries, until it reached his heart and began to turn it to stone.Whoever he was, wherever he was, this was someone who had to be stopped, and stopped now. And he knew instinctively, just like all the times he had known when he’d been in combat, and had been right…someone was going to have to kill him, to stop him.
Little Blue Whales, Kenneth Lewis’ first book, is an interesting story of corrupt politicians, a serial killer and a complex set of characters dealing with the present and their pasts. In a way, I think Lewis attempted to put too much into the book, some of which may have played out better over a series of books, but nonetheless, this book is suspenseful, well written and contains very interesting and complex characters.
At the beginning of the book, Kevin Kearnes is meeting with a psychiatrist to determine if his treatments have been successful enough to allow him to return to duty as the Chief of Police of Cutter Point, a town on the southern Oregon coast. His psychiatrist requests that Kearnes retell the story that led to him having to visit the psychiatrist. The book then begins a third person recounting of past events. A minor criticism is that although most of the story is told in the third person point of view of Kearnes, parts of the story deviate from what Kearnes could know into changing points of views, with and without the presence of Kearnes.
Kearnes is instructed to tell his story from the middle of his life – when he meets his future wife, 14 years prior to the present. This section of the book is fairly short and outlines how Kearnes meets his wife, has two boys and how the marriage fails, leading to Kearnes ultimately taking a job in Cutter Point, Oregon, far from his Kansas home town.
Once Kearnes begins his new job, he quickly learns that the town is run by crooked politicians and policeman; that many different police chiefs have recently been hired and fired. The politicians seem to want someone in keeping with their own interests, especially Mayor Bouchet’s desire to make money on various real estate deals. Although these politicians expect Kearnes to do everything they want, Kearnes quickly shows that he is his own man and is more interested in doing what’s right for the town and the policeman that work for him, at least the ones that aren’t too connected with the mayor.
Kearnes also early on meets two key people, Thud Compton, the detective sergeant (and my favorite character in the book), and Britt McGraw, a woman traveling through the town with her own secrets, who becomes a love interest for Kearnes. Compton, although not real experienced in the problems that will hit the town, proves to be a dedicated, hard working and intelligent detective. McGraw is also a complex and well written character and one that Lewis clearly shows why Kearnes would be attracted to her. On the other hand, I did find the local politicians and the policeman in their control to be a bit predictable and stereotypical.
Uriah Daniel Beek, a religious zealot, and sexual deviate who likes young boys, creates many problems for the local police. Beek likes to talk young boys into going away with him by asking them to look for whales in a favorite place, enticing them with a plastic little blue whale toy. Apparently Beek and Kearnes have some past history and this and solving the cases of the young boy murders, creates much of the problems that cause Kearnes to end up with the psychiatrist. Beek also provides a way for Thud Compton to show his best as he works hard to try to find who is murdering the young boys.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I did feel that Lewis tried to put too much into the book. Although he may not have any plans to make a series of the characters in this book, I would think the portion of the book dealing with the corrupt local politicians, although an important part of the book (and a part that does bring in some humor at times), could have been minimized and perhaps left unresolved for another book. The key parts of the book are the serial killer and the impact on Keanes and on his relationship with Britt McGraw. The conflict with the local politicians, although critical to the story, in some cases, distracts from the best parts of the book and if downplayed, could have led to the showdown in a future book. A minor comment for sure, but I think the book would have been better and it would have seemed less like trying to do everything in one book. I also didn’t think the characterization of the local politicians and corrupt policeman was as a good as his other characters as they come off more plastic and stereotypical. Lessoning the importance of these characters in this book and leaving them for a future book could have led to better character development that Lewis has proven he is capable of doing.
Reviewing a new author is not as easy as one I have read before as I am not already familiar with the author’s style or characters. I also am not able to compare the current book to the prior books. Although this book has some rough spots and probably a bit too much detail for what I like in a book, Lewis has definitely created many likeable and believable characters and told an interesting and mostly believable story. I would definitely recommend this book to others and I’m looking forward to more of his books. I also hope he brings back some of my favorite characters – Chief Kevin Kearnes, Britt McGraw, and especially Detective Sergeant Thud Compton.
- Amazon readers rating: from 17 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Little Blue Whales (March 2006)
- The Sparrows Blade
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- Official website for Kenneth R Lewis
- Reader views on Little Blue Whales
- Police Writers on Little Blue Whales
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About the Author:
Kenneth R. Lewis lives with his wife, JaNell, and their black Lab, Sally, in the small community of Rogue River, Oregon where he is Chief of Police.