I first picked up an Irene Kelly novel in the mid-90s, and followed the intrepid reporter’s adventures through Bones, the novel which won Ms. Burke an Edgar Award and appeared to change the tone of the Irene Kelly series. Before Bones, Irene worked on stories set in the fictional Southern California town of Las Piernas. Irene is a stubborn, hot-headed, compassionate reporter who always has an eye on the story, even when she is injured or in danger. She is married to Las Piernas police detective Frank Harriman, who has always been a prominent character in the series, and in fact is given his own perspective in novels like Flight.
Bones marked a departure in tone of the mystery series, featuring serial killer Nick Parrish, a man who tortured and killed many women prior to the start of the novel. As the novel opened, Parrish was in custody of the police and had been offered a deal: the authorities will take the death penalty off the table in exchange for Parrish revealing where he had buried the body of Julia Sayre, a woman who had disappeared years before. Irene was one of the members of the expedition to the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, where Parrish set off his meticulously planned trap which resulted in the deaths of over six members of the expedition and allowed Parrish to escape. By the end of Bones, Parrish is recaptured after sustaining a severe injury that left him paralyzed.
Disturbance opens years after Bones ends, with Irene hearing the news that Parrish has regained mobility and is now able to walk after a series of “miracle” medical interventions. It also appears that Parrish’s fan club, called the Moths, are becoming active once more in preparation for Parrish’s next escape.
Parrish is a diminished character in this novel; despite being seriously creepy in Bones, he is an aged figure now, and the father of Kai, Quinn, and Donovan, half-brothers who assist him in his plans. It is very much a family affair, and Ms. Burke switches between the three sons’ points of view, with the intriguing Donovan being the one whose loyalties are most in doubt. When Irene is kidnapped so that Parrish can finally exact his long-awaited revenge on her, her husband Frank enlists the help of her friends and family to track her down back in the mountains where Parrish and his sons have taken her. And Irene must work to stay alive against the elements and men with murderous
Disturbance was a quick and absorbing read, and I benefited from having reread Bones only a few days before. Disturbance should be read as a companion book to Bones, so it doesn’t quite stand alone as a book in the series. You can catch up, but it’s better to know all the background before you read Disturbance. One of my quibbles with the book and by extension the series is the timeline of the novels: the Irene Kelly novels appeared to be set in the early nineties, and time has previously been pretty important to the setting of the books (such as Bloodlines). However, now it seems that the author has brought the books into the present (post-financial meltdown), and so it seems puzzling because by the time frame, Irene and Frank should be pushing sixty (with Irene’s friend Lydia having dated her fiancé for about twenty years). Despite my amusement at the various mental pictures the blurry timeline conjured up, I am willing to overlook this and just enjoy the fact that Irene has a lot more years in her. Ms. Burke has a real talent for character, suspense, and pacing, and I look forward to many more Irene Kelly novels.