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Elin Barnes. Justification for Murder

Saffron Meadows is being stalked. Someone is trying to kill her. Repeatedly.


Speaking to a police detective, she confides, “I feel as if I’m in a bad movie. These

things don’t happen to regular people.”


‘You’d be surprised,” he said.


At the same time, Saffron is in a long relationship with Ranjan Balasubramanian whose

family is arranging his marriage with a string of beautiful candidates from India. Her

doctor’s patients are committing suicide. The detective on her case, Darcy Lynch, quits.

Elin Barnes book is peppered with characters that have problems. Darcy Lynch, fighting his own demons, is recovering from

a terrible encounter with a criminal who slashes his leg and blinds him in one eye. Men and women are struggling against

cancer and loss. Lynch's colleague, Detective Sorensen, still mourning the retirement of his partner from MS, refuses to work with

Detective Lynch.  And this is only the start.


Elin develops a plot with unusual yet somehow credible individuals. She told me, “I think of characters as real people…. We are all complex and multidimensional and even though you can't put everything on the page, characters need to be their own persons. They come through as the book develops, I think because of their organic creation, they are a lot more ‘real’ because they develop with the story.”


Clearly she has done her homework with the operations of police detectives, their realistic teamwork and antagonisms, the difficulties of trying to piece disparate clues and analyzing profiles of suspects. She didn’t have to do research on the tech world; she has worked in technology in the Bay Area for over a decade. While many think of California as laid back, Elin’s Silicon Valley characters are driven, whether in the tech industry or with the police. “It's not unusual to work until early morning hours during crunch times, and we all work on the weekends at least some of the time. I've also interviewed a lot of cops and detectives as part of my research and honestly, they are all like that too. They care about their cases and they will pursue them until they find who did it.” 


Working long and frantic hours also occurs in the novel’s medical research. A sincere hope to find a cure for cancer is perverted by the pressure of hiding medical research gone awry. The criminals also pursue non-stop.  The mastermind is determined. “His stride was strong, determined. He’s always walked as if he knew exactly where he was going.”


The killer waits for his victims. “In complete stillness, he listened….He continued to wait. He was good at waiting.”


Lynch and Sorensen are working on very different cases that come together in an unexpected and tension filled read. Jon, a brilliant intern who can work the web to get any information needed, surprisingly adds to investigation. A computer geek turns out to be hero quality —what else in Silicon Valley?


Saffron is not the typical victim. She is smart, strong and fights back each time the killer comes after her.  “Why don’t you die?” he asks her, frustrated that his attempts fail. Saffron and Darcy unexpectedly become a couple. Elin commented to me, “They are both a bit lost in their own way."


I’ll blame Elin for a sleepless night—couldn’t put her book down until I finished the last page!

Coffee is on the menu for most of the characters. What could be better than pairing it with a delicious Plum Coffee Cake?

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