north of montana

April Smith’s novel North of Montana follows FBI agent Ana Grey.  Although initially working bank crimes, an on-the-spot arrest provides Ana the opportunity to work a high-profile medical fraud case, with the charges being pressed by none other than Hollywood’s most glamorous leading lady. 

North of Montana reads a little like Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta novels and a little like James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series, though Ana is much more Lindsay Boxer than Kay Scarpetta.  Smith’s quality of writing falls somewhere between Cornwell’s and Patterson’s (with Cornwell being superior, in my opinion), but her plot lacks the urgency of theirs.

That lack of urgency is the primary reason it took me several weeks to finish this book.  The investigation itself — a doctor accused of intentionally overmedicating a famous actress, resulting in her drug addiction — provided little suspense.  For the most part, the cast of supporting characters simply weren’t compelling; some were underdeveloped while others were caricature-like.  It was only Ana’s revelations into her own history that provided humanity to the story and made her a character worth following. 

A few twists did occur at the end, increasing my interest in Ana’s story just enough to say I might consider reading the next installment.  I’d recommend Smith’s work to an avid reader of this genre, but for those of us who pick up crime novels for a quick thrill of a read, she and Ana might not be the best fit.

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~ by Molly on June 2, 2009.

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