Series: Evidence, #10
Published by Janus Publishing on 26th June 2020
Buy on Amazon
Some family secrets are deadly…
Inventorying human remains can be difficult at the best of times without a creepy security guard hovering over Maddie Foster’s shoulder. Nervous about being stuck in the crypt with the strange man, Maddie asks a friend of a friend to drop by and pretend to be her boyfriend to force the guy to back off.
Raptor operative Josh Warner recently moved to Oregon to take over as guardian to his troubled niece and open a new private security branch in the Pacific Northwest. Josh doesn’t hesitate to help Maddie and is intrigued by the brainy museologist. His protective nature kicks into high gear as he discovers she may be in very real danger.
Tensions run hot in the summer heat as Josh’s work puts everyone he cares about at risk, and Maddie’s research into the museum collection raises questions better left buried. As their city teeters on the precipice of violence, Josh and Maddie find themselves embroiled in a deadly scheme that could reshape the nation.
Books are undeniably reflections of the sensibilities and times we live in, but Grant’s ‘Tainted Evidence’ is one so steeped in it that I had to take a step back several times in the middle of it.As always, I liked the engaging academic angle Grant tends to aim for in all her well-researched stories and the authoritative, overall tone that comes from it as a result. With characters that are mostly sympathetic and intelligent to boot, it’s typically a winning combination that keeps me coming back for more.
I’d thought I was going to read a story about a man whose unrequited love and circumstances had made him move somewhere else to be a guardian to his niece, whose path suddenly intersected with a researcher determined to return some human remains to their rightful place. But Rachel Grant’s ‘Tainted Evidence’ is so much more than that, a rolling juggernaut of the turmoil that started months (or some might say, millennia) ago.
There are many underlying issues forcefully woven into the narrative, as though Grant has used ‘Tainted’ Evidence’ as an outlet for her own personal frustrations to shine through: racism and mass-protests, white supremacy, women’s rights (slut-shaming always has to be thrown in somehow these days) and I frankly found myself uncomfortable with these inserts, as relevant as they are at this moment. It’s put in the author’s note that one’s unlikely unable to finish the book if you didn’t support the Black Lives matter movement, but it wasn’t that way at all for me, even though I definitely thought that it was high time systemic racism had a spotlight shone on it.
It’s a bit hard to put a finger down on it, but overall, I felt as though there have been harsh and very brutal judgements (along with a blame game) made in the book—undoubtedly through the voices of characters who come off as equally unmoving, self-righteous and unforgiving—and I couldn’t help but feel that these filtered through to the reader as a preachy voice instead, as a way of Grant ‘talking down’ to the reader about what is correct or what we should be believing in or how we should be acting.
Admittedly, to claim that there is such authorial intention in the work is just guesswork on my part and I generally try not to extrapolate my own discomfort as what the author may or may not mean, since characterisation is always the veil behind which authorial intention somehow bleeds through. The strong, consistent thread of strongly opinionated viewpoints (some as unreasonable as hell, if you ask me) for instance, that bled through Maddie’s speech didn’t sit too well with me personally—it’s a side I know most female readers will cheer for—yet my own oddly strong reaction against it shocked me too.
The long and short of it really, is that I couldn’t wait to call ‘Tainted Evidence’ a write-off and I’ll be the first to say that this is entirely on me as I skimmed through the last half of it. Put it this way: my interest in the story and character development waned in tandem with my own growing discomfort with the way the subject matters were presented. It’s a rare one of Grant’s works that I couldn’t swallow hook, line and sinker and I’m hoping as hell, that this is just an aberration.