Review: The Deaths of Jocasta by Jean Redmann
Trigger warning: This book contains mentions of child sexual abuse, incest and abortion.
Micky Knight is attending an exclusive party at the country estate of her benefactor, Emma Auerbach when a young woman's body is discovered in the woods near the house. The death is linked to the clinic where Cordelia, whom Micky continues to hold a torch for, works as a doctor. When more bodies show up, all those of women who apparently died of botched abortions, and the clinic begins receiving poison pen letters, Cordelia hires Micky to investigate. Micky must put aside the tangle of her personal feelings and find out who really killed these woman and why.
Crime fans had best be warned that this volume focuses more on relationships and personal drama than the actual mystery. Micky has to face down her aunt Greta, who treated her so badly as a child, and sort out her feelings for Cordelia, as well as the other women in her life. At times I found it a little hard to keep track of the large cast of characters, but it got easier as they began to be more fleshed out. There is still some action, however, with fight scenes and explosions, as well as multiple sex scenes.
Micky has mellowed a bit since the first book, having given up drinking and trying to be less of a womaniser. Her friend Danny's constantly needles her about her past and slut shames her, then turns around and encourages her to drink while introducing her to potential love interests. The fact that this made me so angry demonstrates how invested I have become in Micky as a character. I love that in addition to hard boiled PI she is a huge book lover, who kills time between investigations reading everything from romance to Dante. For the cat lovers, both Micky's beloved Hepplewhite and Rook (the kitten from the fountain in Death by the Riverside) make appearances in this book too.
There is a bit more overtly feminist political content in The Deaths of Jocasta, with much discussion of abortion between characters on both sides of the fence, including nuns, religious fanatics, medical professionals and Micky herself. Micky's feelings on the subject are unsurprising, and succinctly put:
“We'd ban guns and cars if existence were the only standard. We, as a society, have chosen to sacrifice lives for certain freedoms, such as driving a car at highway speeds,” I noted sardonically. “An unwanted pregnancy that a woman is forced to carry to term is, in my opinion, nothing less than involuntary servitude. Nine months of slavery, if you will. That is why she must have the choice. Why we must be willing to accept the loss of lives- if that is what you believe a fetus is- for this basic freedom.”
The Deaths of Jocasta is not the unstoppable thrill ride that was Death by the Riverside, but it is an authentic exploration of complicated human relationships, especially those between women. It's a great continuation of the series, which makes me want to get to know these characters even more, and I look forward to reading the next Micky Knight book.
Published: 1992 (reprinted in 2002 by Bella Books)
Finalist for the Lamda Literary Award.
Rated: ★★ ★ ★ ☆