Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: Dead Politician Society by Robin Spano

Clare Vengel tossed a leg over her Triumph and kicked it into gear. The sun was shining, the mayor was dead, and Cloutier wanted to meet with her. As she sped along Dundas Street, weaving a bit too quickly through traffic, visions of her first undercover assignment played in her head. [opening paragraph]

Dead Politician Society by Robin Spano
ECW Press, 2010
Crime Fiction; 326 pgs

How far would someone go for the sake of politics? Clare Vengel is about to find out. Barely a police woman for 3 months, she is asked to go undercover as a student at the University of Toronto. The death of the mayor appears to be related to a secret student political society, and local authorities hope that Clare will be able to discover who is behind the murder. It is soon obvious that the mayor's death was part of a bigger plot as the bodies begin to pile up. It's up to Clare to find out whether the murders are being committed by an individual or the secret society itself.

Clare has a lot of her own issues; she's estranged from her family and unlucky in love. She is a bit of a rebel who knows her way around cars and rides a motorcycle. She longs to work undercover and hopes that she'll do well enough on her first undercover assignment to earn her a more permanent spot taking on such jobs. Clare is a little rough around the edges, but she has determination and brains.

This is the first in a new series by author Robin Spano. The author takes an interesting approach with the narrative, in particular for a series, by presenting points of view from various characters, including suspects, throughout the book. Clare is just one of the many storytellers. I thought it was a very effective way of having the mystery unfold. I wasn't too fond of any of the characters, except for Clare really, but, then, what do you expect when they all have a motive for murder?

Dead Politician Society was a quick read, one I enjoyed quite a bit. What made this mystery most enjoyable for me were the characters and their many sides, as well as the unfolding of the story. While I guessed the culprit behind the murders early on, it wasn't outright obvious. And what made the resolution all the more interesting was how it played out in the end. I am definitely going to keep my eye out for the next installment in this series.

Rating: * (Good +)

You can learn more about Robin Spano, and her book on the author's website. You can also find her on Twitter and on Clare's Facebook page.

Source: I bought this book for my own reading pleasure.

© 2010, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. How fun! I love stories about undercover, probably because I would be so bad at it (my face is a big open book). I loved the author's guest post, and really look forward to seeing this new series get ramped up.

  2. Sounds interesting. I love books that are told from multiple points of view, and like the idea of reading about a woman undercover, so this sounds like something I might really like! Thanks for the great review, I will be looking for it!

  3. Wendy, thanks so much!

    I love that you like Clare, and that you want to follow her adventures. I'm excited as they unfold, too. In her next book, she's undercover at a poker tournament. (But that's next year's news.)

    I also love that you leave me something to mull over, re: the suspects and their likability. It's true that they have to have personalities that might kill, but it raises an interesting question:

    If you were taking a mystery novel to its heights of awesomeness (which is my ambition for the series going forward), would you have suspects and secondary characters that you like more?

  4. I love stories told from multiple viewpoints - I feel like I get the whole picture that way. This sounds like a good one!

  5. This does sound like an interesting mystery series. I like that cover, very vintage looking.
    Clare sounds like a likeable character.
    Great review!

  6. Sounds like an interesting read and I'm thrilled that you enjoyed this one as it came from your personal library!

  7. Undercover? As a student? I like the sound of this one. I was attracted to the cover too. I like anything yellow and that really caught attention. Thanks for the review, Wendy!

  8. Love the premise! I'll have to check out this book. Thanks for the great review, Wendy!

  9. Thanks for the review! I haven't had a chance to read the book yet but Robin is from BC and will be at The Word On The Street Vancouver next Sunday, September 26.

  10. Hey Monica, if you're at Word On The Street next week, come say hi.

    I love what you've done with your blog title and the Vancouver city view. Is it from Jericho Beach?

  11. I've fallen so behind on responding to comments, I feel terrible. It wasn't intentional, I assure you!

    Sandy - Me too! I probably wouldn't be able to pull off the undercover gig well at all. I really do hope this series takes off. It was a good first book.

    Zibilee - I really liked the way the author used the multi-narrative format in this book. And Clare makes a great heroine.

    Robin - I'm looking forward to seeing where you take Clare next. Your lead in at the end of this book was just tantalizing enough.

    You pose a really good question. I do think that with every character there should be some sort of a hook--some way that the reader can relate to the characters, good or bad--but whether they are likable or not, I'm not sure that is necessary. It certainly helps if it's a main character, of course. And a likable villain is all the more intriguing (to me), but it won't make or break a book.

    I don't think that was a problem with your characters though. I did care about them and wanted to know what happened to them--so in that way, they were easy to relate to. I think my issue with them was strictly a personal one. Maneuvering around political issues and beliefs is a challenge, and I think I reacted more to that than the individuals themselves.

    Kathy - I agree. Sometimes the multiple viewpoints doesn't work, I've found, especially when it seems forced or comes out of the blue. I thought Robin Spano did a good job of finding a good balance--and adding her own twist to it.

    Naida - Isn't it great? I like the cover too. Clare is definitely one tough cookie.

    Staci - I couldn't help but add it after reading an excerpt. It's making the rounds in my family now. I think my dad's reading it now. :-)

    Kathleen - Me either! And this definitely is a great start to a new one.

    Alice - Isn't that a great premise? I do hope you get a chance to read this one, Alice.

    Melody - It definitely is worth checking out.

    Monica - One thing I wish I'd mentioned in the review was how much I liked the setting. I haven't read too many mysteries set in Canada and so was excited to come across this one.


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