Monday, June 15, 2020

Crime novels, Katherine V. Forest's 'Kate Delafield Mystery' series

One of my favourite series of Crime novels are those by Canadian/American Katherine V. Forest, with her Kate Delafield Mystery series.

Kate Delafield is an ex-marine employed as a Detective in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

I came across this series of books last year and was fortunate to read them in chronological order, or at least six of them: AMBER CITY (1984), MURDER AT THE NIGHTWOOD BAR (1987), THE BEVERLY MALIBU (1989), MURDER BY TRADITION (1991), LIBERTY SQUARE (1996) and APPARTITION ALLEY (1997).

What is fascinating is that not only is each book deeply involved in the solving of a particular crime investigation written with a great sense of detail and intense research of period and geography (we get to know the LA roads and the 'personalities' of each suburb) incorporating a canny conviction of deep knowledge of police procedural practice that gives the reader a comfort of truth. It is cool, particular and non-emotional. We get to know her superior officers and her partners. We watch Kate become one of the highly respected detectives in her division over the passing years, driven by a great sense of mission and honour, loyalty to her hard learnt values originating from her torrid experience as a marine in the Vietnam War.

The books are involving because we become engaged with the personal life of this woman and we follow her emotional journey over the years and are privy to her relationships and her struggles with her homosexuality. Katherine Forrest writes with restrained but non-inhibited ease in the sexual interludes with Kate's casual sex partners and finally in her significant relationship with Annie. We develop a caring relationship with Kate Delafield. As a lesbian police officer in the LAPD we are brought to the dilemma and politics and the changing attitudes to the LGBT community in this notorious LA department, for this is the misogynistic department that was a part of the O.J. Simpson saga, the Rodney King riots - remember the police officers that were exposed during those very public trials. Being gay is a quality of life that needs to be 'buried' if one wishes to have a career. At least that is how the books begin. But as we follow the developing personal life of Kate Delafield we also become witness to her growing political conscience over the passing of the years and the slow changes of the LA Department.

There is not only the Kate Delafield character that is in every book but also a rolling collection of men and women who appear in changed and growing circumstances from book to book. We can identify particular individuals and the burgeoning community, it is not not fiercely realistic - it has a ring of truth rather than a fanciful fictionalisation. Over the chronological reading of the novels we not only have a brilliantly researched set of crimes but also a sense of the passing of historical events that are shaping the growth of the American attitude to the LGBT community through the tough prism of LAPD.

I recommend these novels without hesitation and believe them to be setting a contemporary standard in Crime Fiction. Search them out. You will not be disappointed whatever your sexuality. Raymond Chandler and his Philip Marlow detective, Dashiell Hamnett and Sam Spade, and James M. Cain with his crime figures are matched indeed by Katherine V. Forrest.

P.S. The next three books that await my appetite are SLEEPING BONES (1999), HANCOCK PARK (2004) and HIGH DESERT (2013).

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