“Identity”, the second Fina Ludlow novel is a very good example of the classic private investigation novel and Fina is a tough effective detective novel with a good central character, but the novel is somewhat weakened by Ingrid Thoft’s uneven integration of the events of her first book in this series into this story. http://www.amazon.com/Identity-A-Fina-Ludlow-Novel/dp/0399162135 In addition, while the plot set up involving a fertility clinic was interesting. some elements seemed forced.
Fina Ludlow is an investigator at her father Carl Ludlow’s law firm. Several years ago, Renata Sanchez, a potential client, became a mother via an anonymous sperm donor from the fertility clinic Heritage Cryobank. In a prelude to the main action, Sanchez wants to force Heritage to disclose the identity of the sperm donor and hires Carl Ludlow to bring an action. Before bringing the action, Carl sends Fina to find the identity of the sperm donor father, which Fina pulls off with a little ingenuity but in no time at all, which this reader found a touch unbelievable given the lengths that these clinics typically go to protect the identity of their donors. Sanchez confronts Hank Reardon, the father, who is, of course, very wealthy and seeks money for her daughter. The meeting does not go well.
It was not clear where Thoft was going here.
But soon enough, Reardon is found dead, and Fina is hired by his wealthy son to find out who killed his father.
There are a wide pool of potential suspects from the male chauvinistic Heritage Cryobank founder, who is clearly hiding something, Reardon’s first wife, who needs money for her charity, his young second wife, who is also starting a charity and seems to be an indifferent mother, his business partner, who Reardon had blocked from a new lucrative deal, Sanchez, her daughter, and her daughter’s boyfriend, who is another child of a sperm donor. Making matters worse for Fina is the appearance of a mysterious stalker who is following Fina and threatening her. The police are also an impediment to the investigation, as they do not want Fina hampering their own investigation.
Thoft’s handling of the mystery and investigation are top notch.
While Fina does not seem to be accomplishing anything, Thoft shows that Fina’s efforts and doggedness forces the potential suspects to take actions that discloses their activities. She also expertly plays off the various suspects against each other and reveals a lot of information about their motivations. These are not stick figures. There is depth of character here and, of course, plenty of red herrings.
Ultimately Fina will figure out the killer’s identity and many of the other characters’ secrets. She will also uncover a bit of fraud. While the killer’s disclosure was not out of left field, it was a big surprise. A careful review of the novel will show a few potential clues about the killer’s identity sprinkled in, but Thoft does most of the divulging of the killer’s motivations in the last few pages, which is always a little annoying.
One of the problems in this novel, however. is the family dynamic left over from the first book. Apparently, as I did not read the first book in this series,Fina discovered that her brother was a pedofile, with designs on Fina’s niece. Carl Ludlow has exiled him, but is interested in bringing his son back to the law firm and Fina is against it. Even if her family is forgiving and Carl Ludlow and Fina’s mother are in denial, how could they allow someone like that back to the family. This part of the story was not that compelling even if Fina finds a way to get rid of her brother again.
But if you like a strong female detective not afraid to stick her nose and body in dangerous situations to find the killer, this book will definitely be a good read.