Ridley Pearson

Homicide Detective Lou Boldt, Police Psychologist Daphne Matthews, Seattle, Washington
Walt Fleming, Sheriff, Sun Valley, Idaho

(Jump over to read a review of Killer Summer)
(Jump over to read a review of Killer View)
(Jump down to read a review of The Art of Deception)
(Jump down to read a review of Middle of Nowhere)

"The Body of David Hayes "

(reviewed by Judi Clark APR 4, 2004)

"The struggle is not not in solving this case," Boldt told Liz, who was still half asleep. "Because to tell the truth, I don't care about the embezzlement, this seventeen million dollars. The struggle is to protect you and to save our marriage, it's retaining or maintaining respect for each other, making out the other side in one piece."

When this series started (Undercurrents), Homicide Detective Lou Boldt's marriage was on shaky grounds. Boldt is obsessed with tracking a serial killer to the point of giving his wife an excuse to have an affair and Boldt himself is attracted to his beautiful colleague, police pyschologist Daphne Matthews. Over the years and throughout the series, Boldt's marriage and his attraction to Matthews are an underlying story, finally ending with Matthews moving in with Detective LaMoia in the last book. And over the course of this series, Lou and Liz Boldt have gone through a lot -- a kidnapped daughter, Liz with cancer, etc. Their marriage becomes stronger, but the past haunts them -- they have had an agreement to not share with each other whom their respective partners were at that raw point in their marriage. They had believed not knowing would be better.

In quite an unusual move, the Boldt's marriage moves from the background to the foreground in The Body of David Hayes, as Pearson fills in the past details of Liz's affair and of necessity, must finally reveal with whom she had that affair. Of course, the partner was David Hayes. And Liz was involved with Hayes approximately the same time that he embezzled 17 million. He was caught, served time for it and his now free. However, the 17 million disappeared into thin air; it was suspected that it never left the bank, no one could prove it. Now that Hayes is out of jail, the Russian Mafia want their money and David Hayes needs Liz Boldt to help him get at the bank's AS/400 where the money is hiding.

Added into this mix, is an old friend of Liz and Lou -- Detective Danny Foreman -- whose wife had cancer at the same time as Liz, but unlike Liz did not survive. As often happens, over the years they saw less and less of Danny without realizing it. When Boldt is called to a crime scene in which Foreman, with a reputation as a loner among the force, is knocked unconscious while on a solitary stakeout, he's surprised to learn that Foreman has intentionally avoided the Boldt's. For Danny, it's just too painful to see his old friends.

When the dart full of Rophynol knocked Danny out, he was watching David Hayes' trailer. By the time Boldt gets there, Hayes' body is missing, but there is lot of blood from a torture scene. Apparently Foreman was knocked out before Hayes was tortured and disappeared. When Lou tells Liz, she knows her world is about to turn upside down. As she fears, Hayes does contact her the next day and she agrees to meet him, deceiving her husband about her whereabouts. Fearing where this will lead, and wanting to protect the marriage that they have worked so hard at, she does eventually come clean to Boldt. And naturally, Boldt realizes that he is going to have to make a hard choice, between the ethics of his job and protecting his wife. Then, a nasty tape is revealed to Liz, one that shows her in flagrant carnal activity with Hayes - one that she never wants Lou to see, nor anyone else. If it does gets released, the date of the tape would draw the wrong, but inevitable, conclusion as to her involvement in the embezzlement. All said and done, these tapes must be destroyed or destroy her marriage, her family, her reputation and her job. Having no other choice, she tells Boldt, who has an even greater fear -- the people who want their money will likely kill Liz after the money is transferred. Moreover, he can't trust Foreman with Liz's life; he's only too eager to put her in danger in order to close this cold case. Or is it the money that he's after?

Of the past few novels in this series, this one is the best. I like the plot better because it is not based on a serial killer like The Art of Deception and there is no sense of the "dumbing down" that I found in Middle of Nowhere. Embezzlement as a plot is far more interesting to me, but that still would be an ordinary plot if it were not for the play on the Boldt's marriage. As the quote at the beginning of this review notes, the real challenge isn't getting the 17 million back, it's doing so without destroying their marriage, Liz's reputation or worse yet, getting her killed. One of the reasons I like this book is because Liz has an actual voice. It's not just what Boldt thinks or feels (which is often stiff at its softest moments). As one would expect of an executive level banker, Liz has her own thoughts and emotions -- she is flawed and makes mistakes -- but she is also trying to be a better person. Whereas, in the last novel there is reference to Liz being into her religious reading; having "met" her, I now have an understanding as to why she leans on her faith. She's no longer just Boldt's wife, she is Liz Boldt and I do hope she is here to stay in the forefront. Naturally the situation is resolved with help from John LaMoia and Daphne Matthews.

Because in his earlier novels, Ridley Pearson had a reputation for adding state-of-the-art technical details into his novels, I'm always waiting to be wowed. Since we as a nation are far more knowledgeable technically than we were in the late 80's (access to Internet, general news stories, even political issues), I think it takes more for a writer to be ahead of his or her readers. Nevertheless, there are few good tricks in this novel. Most striking is the Special Ops maneuvers to swap Liz with a special agent and Boldt's later plan to "fool the foolers." There are also common everyday technologies, such as using OnStar in an unexpected way and even an interesting terrorist weapon. But the mystery isn't in the technical maneuverings or gewgaws. The central plot to this book is a husband and wife relationship, which is more challenging to handle than any technical plot. The success of this novel depends on the "truth" of their relationship -- how real does it feel. For example, we all know that even in the healthiest of relationships, couples know (consciously or unconsciously) which buttons to push, especially if they want to get the other person to do something; the trick in a healthy marriage is to cut through these moments. "Liz, I'm going to say something, and I don't want to hurt your feelings, but when you get excited or nervous you beat around the bush, and you're doing that now, and that's getting me nervous and excited. So please just take a second to settle down and tell me what it is you want me to come away with from this call." You know how Liz is feeling right at this moment -- and Pearson has it accurate -- she's both chagrinned and ticked off. Sometimes the hardest and bravest thing for two people in a long-term relationship is to be straight with each other. And there lies the technical nugget in The Body of David Hayes, Pearson tackles the art of the marriage, wrapping a darned good plot around it.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 28 reviews
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"The Art of Deception"

(reviewed by Judi Clark AUG 13, 2002)

In this latest novel in the Lou Boldt/Daphne Mathews series, Pearson does things a bit differently. Usually Boldt and Mathews team up to solve whatever current case is playing havoc with the Seattle Police Department. But this time Mathews teams up with Detective John LaMoia.

Read excerptLt. LaMoia catches a "jumper" case that quickly turns into a homicide investigation. When the call comes in, Daphne Matthews is just leaving the Shelter where she has been doing volunteer work for years. Actually, she's presently over-volunteering hoping that in some way this makes up for her guilt at having one of her girls jump to their death earlier in the year. So, when Daphne hears the call on her car radio, she decides to go over to the Aurora Bridge. Oddly, she discovers Deputy Prair of the Sheriff's Department on the bridge, which annoys her since he had once had a bout of stalking her that has never left her feeling comfortable about his presence. An ex-cop, Prair is not well liked by members of the Seattle PD. LaMoia sees them talking and comes to Daphne's rescue, helping her get away from him. When they see a trail of blood that looks like it could have happened if a body had been carried from a car trunk or back seat and thrown over the bridge railing, Daphne is secretly relieved that this case was not a jumper. However, she still decides to make the case her own and volunteers her services to LaMoia.

The first thing that LaMoia asks her to do is to run over to a fish-processing plant and interview a twenty-year-old Ferrell Walker who suspects that the victim described in the newspaper is his sister Mary-Ann. Ferrell says that his sister has been missing and her boyfriend, the no-good, girl-friend-beating Lanny Neal, isn't telling him anything. Then again, Ferrell blames Neal for causing him to lose his fishing boat after his father died and his sister decided to quit fishing with him. As Mathews watches him gut fish, she wonders if she's handled this whole thing correctly. "He was more kid than adult, she thought. A lovesick brother with a fishing knife sharp enough to split hair --- she reminded herself to thank LaMoia for this one."

This Ferrell Walker is not exactly a stable character and Mathews realizes that some kind of accidental transference has taken place between her and Walker. Walker gets this notion that she will welcome his help on the case; and, no matter how she says no to his help, he's there with evidence --- which they need. But it's worse than that. He, or someone, is stalking her; it's really hard to tell. In fact, after all these years of helping others overcome fears and victimization, Mathews discovers how fear incapacitates first hand; a very interesting position for a police shrink to find herself in.

Meanwhile, Lou Boldt is lead on a different case, one that has been open for months. He's been dogged by two missing women cases, each woman having simply disappeared out of ordinary lives. The first one, Patricia Randolf went missing about two months prior. The second one, Susan Hebringer, disappeared only weeks ago. As the mother of one of his daughter's schoolmates, Boldt knew her, thus for a man whose trademark is his empathy for the victim, this case goes beyond personal. It is dragging him down. The Seattle PD knows very few facts about the disappearances; accept that Hebringer reported a peeping Tom prior to abduction. Thus, when an out-of-town woman complains about a similar incident that occurred while bathing in her hotel room; LaMoia, who was working the desk when the call came in, hopes that this could be a break for Boldt.

During this call, Boldt is visiting his old friend, Mama Lu, (The First Victim) who has called him in for a favor. Although at first it just feels like another distraction, Boldt's case does get a boost. Mama Lu wants him to clear the name of an engineer that was killed while fixing a water main that broke when a sinkhole opened up on Third Avenue. Mama Lu says that his death was not an accident and that to say so brings shame to the family since it means he didn't know his job. She wants Boldt to confirm her suspicions of foul play. Boldt, consumed with his guilt over his ineffectiveness in solving the missing women cases, agrees to look into Chen's death --- not because he really cares about doing this favor, but he sees a connection with the location. Chen died near where witnesses said they last saw Hebringer and Randolf. And this leads him to want to know more about Seattle's "Underground City."

Unlike his normal trademark, Pearson does not place science or technology central to this novel's plot. We do benefit form Pearson's knack for in-depth investigation in the exploration of Seattle's Underground which is historically interesting and described so well it is easy to picture. Central to this novel is Daphne Mathews, a police psychologist, an expert at manipulation (which is the art of deception) and the jargon that comes with the profession. But it's not exactly as you would think it would be. Despite her training, she is not at all in control. Daphne, the ever-wise counselor for everyone else, finds herself learning what it really feels like to be afraid. That all her textbook knowledge goes out the window when one is faced with a real situation. "There were no words for her, only a pounding heart, a dry tongue, and the chills that came with the knowledge of what she had done. She chastised herself for that decision --- she'd allowed the emotion of fear to overcome any hope of rationally negotiating her way out. Had she been on the outside of this, observing it, she could have identified the victim's bad decision making at every turn." Did I say that there is no science in this novel? I'm wrong! Pearson, through Daphne Mathews, is actually meticulous about the field of psychology when used with police work.

In my review of Middle of Nowhere, the previous novel in this serious, I had mentioned that I felt that Pearson seemed to be "dumbing down" the series. With this novel, I don't have that complaint at all. Pearson seemed back on his mark-- the dialogue was snappy and the events moved right along. If anything, there are a few leaps that Boldt makes that take a moment to follow - but I prefer this strategy, as long as there are no loose ends or inconsistencies, which of course, there aren't.

As per usual, Pearson drives another page-turning thriller that features characters that seem like old friends. Detective John LaMoia is going to surprise you in this one. LaMoia is three months into recovering from an OxyContin addiction and the notorious playboy wants "more connection, less infatuation" in a relationship. Yes, as you might guess, there's something interesting going on here between LaMoia and Mathews, which neither of them would have expected. I'll let you read and find out how Boldt deals with this new development. But I will say that this is the most comfortable I've felt about the Mathews/Boldt relationship. Don't worry, if you are new to the series, you won't feel left out since I believe that Pearson works in enough history. Actually, if you are new to the series you might underestimate Boldt's role; really, this one is all about Daphne Mathews.

The Art of Deception is different than the previous novels in that it is more of a psychological thriller than a technological one. That's not to say that Pearson skips over any technical details when it comes to the Underground or when we finally learn how the women are abducted or even when it comes to that of locating a peeping Tom. It is very easy to visualize the events driving the plot. But I'll admit that there were times I was uncomfortable with Daphne Mathews. I'm always a little afraid when someone starts labeling behavior in terms of psychological motivations, as Daphne is trained to do. Worse is when they start to employ this knowledge. But, then again that is the art of deception. And her talents prove necessary with the type of character that the Seattle Police Department is dealing with and, ultimately, to save herself.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 32 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Art of Deception

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"Middle of Nowhere"

(reviewed by Judi Clark JUL 02, 2000)

The majority of the Seattle Police force is out with the "blue flu," an unofficial strike protesting the new Police Chief's mandate against earning overtime pay and restricting off-duty jobs. With the reduction of cops, only about one-fifth are signing in, crime is on the increase and it's the luck of the draw who works each case. That is how homicide detective, Lieutenant Lou Boldt ends up working a string of burglaries and why police psychologist Daphne Matthews draws lead on an assault case of fellow officer, Maria Sanchez, who is brutally attacked at her home and now lays paralyzed from a broken neck. The perpetrator sets the scene up so that the Sanchez case looks like a rape. But then, again, the television set is missing. Maybe, she surprised the burglar. It's either a "twisted burglar, or a greedy rapist" according to Detective Bobbie Gaynes. Neither MO feels right. Boldt and Matthews fear a "black hole." Then as the blue flu continues, there's this nagging question - was it cop against cop - unthinkable for a line of work that relies on each other for protection.

First, a blue brick through his living room window and then an aggressive beating in his driveway, Boldt believes these to be warnings from the blue flu-ers. Then two more cops are badly beat up. Boldt starts to feel that something else might be going on here, something that only the Internal Investigations might know about. After all, the "strike" is only a week or so old, not enough time to build up this amount of animosity. Meanwhile, the string of burglaries leads him and Daphne to Colorado, an experimental work program for prisoners and a strong lead in at least the burglary case.

Pearson's reputation is for writing fast-paced novels that evolve around the latest technology and current events. For Middle of Nowhere the solution to the case centers on tracking cell phone calls, the assumed security of garage door openers and touches on the consequences of having the private sector run our prison cells. As per usual, the technology is fascinating and if prison privatization comes up on a local referendum, you might weigh the consequences a little more seriously after reading this novel.

The one thing I depend on in any sleuth series is the strength and continuity of the characters. After all, it is the most compelling reason why one is willing to come back time and again. Middle of Nowhere excels in this area. After being away from this series, I enjoyed hooking back up with this steadfast Seattle crew. There's been a few promotions and a few changes in the department, but that's to be expected. Lou Boldt is a good cop and as such is a workaholic. He believes in the good of the police force and is truly bothered by the rift caused by the sick out. He's still married to Liz who recently underwent lymphoma treatment and now has a calmer outlook on Boldt's comings and goings. They have a couple of kids, but due to Lou's heavy work schedule, we don't really see much of them. When the stress builds, he heads over to an old friend's bar and plays jazz piano.

And Boldt is still struggling with his attraction for Daphne Matthews. For Boldt, Daphne is a "thoroughbred: dark, lean, fit and strikingly handsome... with both a facile mind and a trained eye." Daphne lives on her houseboat and now wears a scarf to hide a scar from a previous incident. Detective LaMoia is a long time friend of Boldt, not as technically inclined, more of a motor head. He races cars, is essentially macho and a successful ladies' man. He's out with "the flu," but gets involved with the Sanchez case; turns out he has a personal involvement. Detective Bobbie Gaynes also has a big role in solving this case. Boldt notes that it seems like it's the women on his team that have the most resistance to "the flu."

It's been longer than I care to mention since I've read a Pearson novel. This one didn't seem to start as well as his earlier ones. (I've pulled four off my book shelf to make sure...) In a sense I felt a dumbing down, that is, a need to spell out a little too clearly and repetitively about the blue flu and the potential for a "black hole." Perhaps as Pearson's audience grows, he's been asked to appeal to a broader audience. However, this results in the pace feeling slow or just off in the first few chapters. Fortunately, once all this is established, the story picks up and as per normal, it had me in a grip until the last page. I was glad to be back in Boldt's blue Seattle, even with the flu.

Amazon reader rating: from 102 reviews

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(reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 20, 1998)

So far, I like every book I've read by Ridley Pearson, but this first one will remain my favorite in this series. He does his homework and creates suspenseful novels around current events with excellent technical plots. Each subject Pearson writes about is like going behind the scenes of some of the most upsetting headlines in today's news

Undercurrents is the first in a series that features Seattle forensic investigator Lou Boldt and police psychologist Daphne Matthews. To determine the time of death, Boldt studies the Puget Sound currents.  To Pearson's credit, based on this book, this technique was used to solve a real crime! At the time that Pearson begin writing this series, "forensic thrillers" were still a new genre.

Amazon reader rating: from 23 reviews


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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Featuring Lou Boldt and Daphne Matthews:

Featuring Sheriff Walt Fleming:

* Lou Boldt helps out!


Stand-alone Thrillers: International Thriller Series:


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Book Marks:


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About the Author:

Ridley PearsonRidley Pearson raised in Riverside, Connecticut was the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in detective fiction at Oxford University, and his novel No Witnesses was selected by the ALA as one the best fiction books of 1994. Pearson's Lou Boldt series is being produced as an A&E original movie. For eleven years, Pearson was on the road as a folk-rock musician and is a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders, along with Stephen King and Amy Tan. Pearson lives in Hailey, Idaho with his wife, Marcelle, and daughters, Paige and Storey. 

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