KAREN KIJEWSKI – Kat Scratch Fever. Kat Colorado #8. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, June 1997. Berkley, paperback, June 1998.

   In her next-to-last recorded outing, Kat Colorado is hired to help determine if a well-known insurance agent committed suicide or not. The police think so; the man’s lawyer is not so sure, and his widow, a much younger woman, is completely distraught. Thinking it an extremely minor matter, she takes the case, but 350 pages later, both she and the reader have gone though a figurative wringer.

   It’s a long and complicated case, in other words, and there are times when a list of characters after the title page would have come in very handy. (Do mystery novels ever do that any more?) It seems as though everyone in Sacramento has a deep dark secret that they’ve been keeping forever, and somehow a blackmailer, the same one in each instance, has managed to unearth all of them.

   What’s different this time around is that all of the money — $10,000 at a time — goes to charity, a foundation that grants wishes to disadvantaged kids, and with one exception, the blackmailer does not come back for more. But when Kat’s investigation gets too close, he (or she) has no hesitation in striking back, in more ways than one.

   Kat Colorado was a PI definitely in the Kinsey Millhone mode. For each of these two female Pis, their friends and family get all tangled up in the tales about them, and in this case for Kat, deeply involved in the case itself as well. Both tell their stories in a consistent conversational tone, and snarky and wittily at times as well, but if you prefer the loner type of detective, you’d best stay away.

   Another possible flaw for you, as a potential reader of this book, may be in the detective work, if you perceive it that way. When Kat eventually comes to a dead end, as indeed she must, as none of the blackmail victims are willing to talk, her only recourse is to offer herself up as bait. We’ve all read that sort of recourse before, but you can’t convince mystery writers to do otherwise, since as smart as the killers always are up to then, it’s a ploy that always works.