Title: A Fresh Set of Eyes (David Lloyd Investigations 2)
Author: Liz Strange
Cover art: Deana C. Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: A Fresh Set of Eyes (David Lloyd Investigations)
Length: Novel/90,000 words/ 297 PDF pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: Mystery fans are in for a treat.
Blurb: A mother turns to David to help free her son and another young man from prison, where they have spent the last ten years for a double murder many feel they did not commit. The police investigation was spotty, the evidence non-existent, and yet someone had to pay for the vicious assault on two young brothers. Never one to shy away from a tough situation David agrees to look into the case, despite the tense situation with his partner’s family and the physical and emotional needs of the former-prostitute he’s taken under his wing.
With so many lives on the line, David must find a way to help them all without hurting the most important person – himself.
A Fresh Set of Eyes is the second book in David Lloyd Investigations series. The first one – Missing Daughter, Shattered Family – was reviewed here. This novel was inspired by the “West Memphis Three” case, though it is not necessary for you to be familiar with it to enjoy the story. Additionally, it is not necessary for you to read the first book, especially if you are reading for the sake of mystery, though it would give you some information on David’s background and his nemesis. This book is set a few months after the first one (year 2000 or 2001).
This is first and foremost a mystery, although David’s relationship with his long-term boyfriend Jamie and his domestic life, which take a positive turn in this book, provide a good balance to the mystery and show different sides to a relentless detective.
Though the evidence against them is flimsy at best, the three teenagers are accused and convicted for a gruesome murder of two young boys. Ten years later, one of them committed a suicide and the mother of another hires David to look into the case and try to prove their innocence.
Once again, Ms. Strange gives us a competent, well-written mystery. David is a thorough investigator who follows every, even the smallest, clue and interviews all the involved and interested parties, many of whom have things to hide. This way we were given a number of suspects and possible scenarios of past events. The cast is large and varied. In addition to the several characters we met in the first book (Jenny, Dr. Garfield, Roberta, Stella), we are introduced to Alex and Nathan, two of the convicted men, Sandra Klassen, Nathan’s mother and David’s client, Mark Ester, her ex-husband, Tammy, Nathan’s wife, Sam Miller, the young men’s friend, detectives, social workers and many, many more. They all have their distinct personalities, even the characters who appear in only one scene. In the previous book I found the numerous interviews a bit repetitive, but here the author managed to avoid that and I found myself turning pages to see what new leads David would uncover.
Another thing that worked better in this novel was David’s private life. The author spent more time with David and Jamie and, especially, David and Jenny, the young prostitute David met on his previous case. The men are helping Jenny to get her life back on track and it was great to see David’s nurturing side. I also liked how they handled the situation with Jamie’s father. The situation itself was described realistically and the characters showed maturity which was somewhat lacking in the first novel (considering that both David and Jamie are in their forties). I admit it, I would like to see some intimate scenes between the two men (all sex scenes are fade-to-black), but they are not strictly necessary for the story.
The situation with Jeremy Black, the man who ended David’s career, remains unresolved at the end of this novel, though David delivered some highly satisfying ass-kicking. I was very, very pleased.
There were a few things that kept me from giving the book the highest rating. All the characters – and I mean ALL of them who don’t have questionable motives – are unanimously convinced of the young men’s innocence, including the detectives who worked on the case. There is not a single opposing voice in the book and I found that less than realistic. After all, these men were accused, tried and convicted, so someone must have thought that they were guilty. Additionally, the cast of this novel is the best articulated, well spoken group of people I have recently encountered in fiction – regardless whether they are ex drug addicts or vagrants, cops or lawyers. They even use a similar vocabulary, which pulled me out of the story a couple of times. However, these few flaws were far outweighed by positives and I enjoyed the book very much.
A Fresh Set of Eyes is a treat for mystery lovers. The slow pace enables you to closely follow the investigation and, though the romance is secondary, the men are likable and their relationship appealing. It is very rare for me not to guess the bad guy and that was the case here, which is always a plus in my book. I’m looking forward to David and Jamie’s new adventures and, especially, to the inevitable fall of Jeremy Black.