Third time's a charm for Kramer

When reading Julie Kramer's third book, "Silencing Sam," it finally hit me — Kramer is a Minnesota Agatha Christie.

Christie is the greatest of all crime fiction writers, the world's best-selling author, who specialized in whodunits without the blood, guts or obscenities, of many contemporary authors. And she was a master of subtle foreshadowing. She would go along, laying out plots and note a small detail that most readers overlooked as just something to add a bit of interest, no more or less.

Only at the end would a small detail, such as shoes or a woman's knees, pop up as critical.

Kramer uses many of the same techniques in her third book about Riley Spartz, a feisty Twin Cities TV investigative reporter.

Her first book, "Stalking Susan," got me very interested in Spartz. The book was fun to read. Spartz was a classy woman, and the plot was excellent. The book doesn't offer the more in-depth character development of William Kent Krueger and his series of incredible books on Cork O'Connor, who is part Ojibwe and lives in northern Minnesota. He's a much more complicated man, with a sometimes tortured family life, and Krueger does a remarkable job of weaving his personal life with information about the Ojibwe and the crimes.


Kramer is more sparse with Spartz, not offering as much in character development, but Spartz is still an interesting woman. Kramer's insight into how the media, especially TV, work adds to the book because she formerly ran WCCO's investigative wing.

Her second book, "Missing Mark," wasn't quite as satisfying. The main plot twist — that a mother and daughter share a rare genetic disorder that doesn't let them recognize faces — seemed a bit awkward. And how Spartz finds a state-record bass in a cage, ready to be "caught" in a fishing tournament, was weak.

Because of book two, I wasn't sure what to expect from her newest one.

But Kramer redeems herself. The plot is much more believable. And seeing Spartz be charged with a sleazy newspaper columnist's murder is a neat twist. How she finds the real murderer was well done and the truth came as a surprise, which is what a good mystery book should offer.

The book is also fun because it's about southeastern Minnesota, including Mayo Clinic, and alludes to the contemporary controversy over wind turbines that are sprouting up in this region.

That's when I began to see glimmers of Christie in Kramer. She lays out information about what the Arab visitors to Mayo are wearing and has Spartz considering an investigation into safety of those working on turbines.

Bingo. Both sum up as critical when the murderer is revealed. That's just what Christie did so well.

Ultimately, "Silencing Sam" is satisfying.


Bring on book four.

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