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Black Current: A Jaymie Zarlin Mystery by Karen Keskinen
Cover Artist: David Eustace / Gallerystock
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250012715
Date: 03 June 2014 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

PI Jaymie Zarlin is an expert at finding missing persons. However, she is persuaded to investigate the gruesome death of a high school surfing Adonis, Skye Rasmussen. The police believe he accidentally fell into a tank at the Santa Barbara Aquarium and was stung to death by a giant jellyfish. However, Skye's parents and Jaymie suspect otherwise. Soon their suspicions are confirmed by another mysterious death at the aquarium. With the help of her PA, Gabi Gutierrez, and a rebellious teenager, Claudia Molina, Jaymie investigates the murders and finds they may be connected to a deadly case of arson in 1969 when university students firebombed a real estate office.

"Children in Peril" seems to be the recurrent theme in Karen Keskinen's mysteries, especially her latest and greatest, Black Current. The setting is gorgeous, sun-dappled Santa Barbara, which is a botanist's paradise with its multitude of exotic vegetation, the names of which I've never heard such as: bird-of-paradise, bougainvillea, frangipani, fishtail palms, and agave. Jaymie enjoys the beaches and riding her Schwinn bicycle along the winding cliff roads. She loves her dog Dexter, who lost one of his legs in the debut novel, Blood Orange. Jaymie has a soft heart for strays, outcasts and the downtrodden, thus the reason for working with, and having patience towards, Gabi Gutierrez and Claudia Molina who both lost relatives in Blood Orange.

This time around, Gabi is in love; she keeps receiving beautiful, rare roses from her admirer, Angel, a day laborer. The tomboyish, foul-mouthed Claudia is searching for guidance and purpose after losing her sister. Jaymie hires her to go undercover and infiltrate the Piņata Party Club of which the victim, Skye, was a member. Several of his rich, young friends, Porter Logsdon and Vanessa Hoague, were also members. Meanwhile, Jaymie investigates the highly secretive, tight-lipped Steinbach family. Dr. Rod Steinbach, consultant for the aquarium, loved his grandson Skye but is too eager to rule his death an accident. The wealthy Steinbachs have a lot of nasty skeletons in their closets.

To complicate matters, Jaymie is involved in a love triangle. Who does she love more? Is it the wealthy, exotic, but slimy, lawyer, Zave Carbonel, or the down-to-earth, farm boy detective Mike Dawson? Mike broke up with Jaymie in the last novel when she refused to commit. (Foolish girl!) Now Mike is kinda sorta dating Mandy Blaine. Jaymie is emotionally sideswiped and nearly loses interest in the aquarium murders when someone delivers a note about her dead brother Brodie, a drug addict who supposedly hung himself in the city jail. As she probes deeper into Brodie's death, a stranger stalks and threatens her.

Karen Keskinen's Black Current seethes with mystery and intrigue. Jaymie Zarlin is a tenacious investigator who won't quit hounding a suspect until they confess. Though the aquarium murders are eventually solved, the individuals responsible for the arson-related death at the novel's beginning remain unpunished. One can only hope that justice will be served in the next installment. Also, Brodie's death will remain an unsolved mystery until a later date. Some series have a continuing mystery that remains unresolved from one novel to the next. Nevertheless, I can't wait for the next installment in this beautiful, richly entertaining series.

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