“The Red Chameleon – Kat Stone #1” by Erica Wright

Debut novel about an ex-cop turned PI that entertained but needed a little more focus and a different narrator.

There were a lot of things that worked well in this book and a couple of things that disappointed.

The premise of the book, which kicks off a series that currently stands at three books, is that, at twenty-seven, Kat Stone is already an ex-cop having resigned following a traumatic under-cover tour virtually straight out of the academy. Now she works as a PI, mostly doing divorce work. She’s pushed out of her recently assembled comfort zone and back to confronting her old life when the suspected-of-cheating man she’s following is killed and she looks like the prime suspect.

I liked how well-thought-through Kat Stone’s character was. In the present day, she hides behind a series of characters, each with its own wig and look, who she uses to do her investigations but which also prevent her from having to come to terms with who she is now that she’s not under-cover and what being under-cover did to her. This allows Kat to be a little flippant and faux-sassy one the surface and troubled underneath.

This duality is reflected in the plot in which Kat tries to untangle the murder she’s associated with while flashing back along the way to give us the history of her life under-cover, sharing the bad things that happened to her there and showing the frightening possibility of links between her past and the current murder.

The humour in the present-day investigation worked well. The comments and descriptions had me snorting a few times but some of the humour seemed to me to make Kat too much like Stephanie Plumb for an ex-under-cover cop.

The flashbacks were the most intense parts of the book. The transitions were handled well and the pace at which Kat’s past was shared was well judged to add to tension and character development.

The present-day plot worked until the very end when it all collapsed a bit. The final scene at the Amusement Park wasn’t quite tense enough and the wrap-up that followed felt a little tacked on.

I listened to the audiobook version of “The Red Chameleon”, narrated by Rachel Dulude who, to me, didn’t seem a good fit for this book. Rachel Dulude handled the humorous dialogue very well and came up with distinctive voices for the characters but she seemed to stumble over some of the text as if reading it for the first time and didn’t seem able to adjust her tone to deal with the serious violence and threat in the book. I recommend going with a text version of the book. Check out the narration for yourself by clicking on the SoundCloud link below


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