Dead Politician Society by Robin Spano is the second mystery of hers I have read, following Death’s Last Run. While I wasn’t that thrilled by that book, I felt that there was reason to give Spano another chance. And so I turned from her third novel to her first. Young police officer Clare Vengel infiltrates a university where a secretive campus group has taken responsibility for murdering the mayor, and then a serial pattern of murders takes place. She has to locate this group and wheedle her way into their midst.
After the first fifty pages I wondered where Spano was taking us, because I felt lost and didn’t get a grasp on where the mystery was going. The book was 326 pages long yet divided into 83 chapters, which was a detriment to plot development. Nothing substantial can be allowed to happen when there are only four pages per chapter. When action does take place, it is almost as if the minimal pages were written solely in order to tell you so. I had a sense of déjà vu when I realized I made the same comment while reading Death’s Last Run. I wish Spano would spend more time on setting the scene instead of filling her pages with dialogue. Little differentiation between characters’ personalities meant I often didn’t know who was speaking, and had to reread the dialogue to figure it out. I made that same remark as well in my review for Death’s Last Run. By the time I was halfway through the book I didn’t really care who was speaking as I couldn’t compartmentalize each personality. The characters might as well have seemed nameless to me, thus when Clare spoke to her professor, for example, it didn’t matter what his name was.
Clare manages to snoop around in an office and finds mysterious files–too convenient a development to advance the action. I didn’t buy that the person who hid the files did it so carelessly. And the relationships between characters were unrealistic because so little space was written to develop them. There’s a professor who everyone knows sleeps with his female students and no one bats an eyelash about it, and a lesbian couple where one of the women suspects the other is the murderer, yet the sudden disappearance of the possible suspect doesn’t seem to rile the other woman much. In both these cases, people just seem to let things happen, as if they are catatonic zombies to the actions around them. And Clare’s infatuation with a man she’s only known for a week? Unreal. He is barely introduced so there isn’t even the rush of a new love story to make it believable. The one good thing about this book, as with Death’s Last Run, was its presentation. Beautifully formatted, attractive layout and chapter font, plus a striking pop art cover.