Life Without Parole by Clare O’Donohue
Official Summary: “After the death of her ex-husband, things are finally returning to normal for Kate Conway—so normal that she’s gotten a little bored. Out of the blue, the television producer is offered a documentary gig about lifers in a state prison. Kate jumps at the chance. The only problem is that she’s also just been asked to produce a reality show about the opening of a new restaurant—one backed by Vera, her dead husband’s mistress. Reluctantly, she agrees to both.
But when one of the restaurant’s investors is murdered and Vera is the chief suspect, Kate must ride a treacherous psychological edge, relying on the minds of death row killers to help her solve the case.”
After starting the day reading a book that wasn’t drawing me in, I decided to switch to Life Without Parole and I am so glad I did! I ended up reading the entire book in a single day. The second book in Clare O’Donohue’s series about freelance TV producer Kate Conway, Life Without Parole opens with Kate dissatisfied by her work on home design reality shows. To make a change, she accepts two jobs on disparate TV shows, one a documentary that has her conducting interviews at a prison and the other a reality show. Kate is quickly drawn into mysteries related to both shows and the two end up crossing over more than initially anticipated.
Both sides of the story work well together. While the two shows were completely different, watching Kate and her crew interact with the people involved in each show gave O’Donohue a chance to show different sides of their personalities. It also gave O’Donohue an opportunity to share lots of details about different types of television programs, no doubt garnered from her own career as a freelance TV producer. The pacing of the book was perfect, building to the conclusion while keeping the reader involved and guessing throughout. As an avid mystery reader, I occasionally feel that plots seem predictable and overdone, but I found Life Without Parole to be original without resorting to unbelievable circumstances or contrived plot twists.
While some of the peripheral characters were a bit one dimensional, the main characters were developed and seemed to grow as the story progressed. Over the course of the book, readers get to see Kate recover from the loss of her husband, which was the storyline of Missing Persons, the first Kate Conway book. Throughout the first part, numerous characters note that Kate has lost her edge and stopped socializing since his death, but Kate rediscovers her strength and begins to emerge from her self-imposed seclusion by the end of the book.
As an aside, I haven’t read Missing Persons, and I was very impressed with the way O’Donohue managed to include the details that readers would need to know from the past in a smooth and unobtrusive manner. I never felt confused but I also never noticed that O’Donohue was overtly dumping a bunch of information on me. While reading this book did leave me wanting to read Missing Persons, I never felt as though I was lost or missing out on details because I hadn’t already read it. So even if you haven’t read O’Donohue’s books in the past, don’t let that stop you! All in all, I would recommend Life Without Parole to any mystery fan. If you haven’t read O’Donohue’s other books, I wouldn’t be surprised if you want to by the time you finish it.
Check it out: Life Without Parole will be available on April 24th.
Read Alikes: If you can’t quite wait until April 24th, you can get started on the series now with book 1, Missing Persons. O’Donohue also writes another series of mysteries called the Someday Quilts Mysteries.
Note: Review based on ARC from publisher.