The Intersection of Law and Desire.
P.O. Box 3671, Ann Arbor, MI 48106-3671
ISBN: 1932859012; $12.95; 357 pages
In 2004, a relatively new lesbian press, Bywater Books, has re-printed J. M. Redmann's award-winning novel, The Intersection of Law and Desire, the third installment of the four-book Micky Knight series. The intervening ten years have neither diminished the emotional power of this book nor rendered it a literary anachronism in any way. Redmann has created a complex and multifaceted female private investigator unlike others found in this genre. At times brash, aloof, even morose, Micky Knight is a reflection of the Louisiana bayou where she was raised and the seamy underbelly of the New Orleans which provides her often distasteful livelihood. Quietly vulnerable yet ruthlessly straightforward, Micky is an intricate woman whose personal demons color her every professional action and personal interaction. Through Redmann's carefully constructed articulation of every nuance of her main character, she has created a woman about whom the reader cannot remain ambivalent. Micky is no superhero, no Wonder Woman. What she is is a woman beset with petty foibles, exaggerated perceptions, and often sardonically cynical and contemptuous words. However, despite this seemingly callous facade, the reader discovers a worthy, valiant, and ethical woman whose perspective on life is quite simple. When told to let the law deal with an egregious adversary, Micky responds, "The law? I want justice" (p. 355). This simple statement serves as the thematic underpinning for Redmann's story and proclaims one of the few certainties in the detective's life.
Micky is working two cases, one involving the young daughter of a friend and the other the discontented relative of her lover, Dr. Cordelia James. As she delves deeper into what initially appear to be disparate circumstances, Micky soon discovers that prostitution, drugs, pornography, and an exclusive private club's clientele are all intertwined. Events will spiral beyond her control, test her increasingly tenuous relationship, and cause her to finally verbalize and examine her early childhood experiences from a new perspective.
Redmann has crafted a multi-layered narrative with outstanding prose. The word choice is rich and evocative of the New Orleans setting. Following a lead, Micky drives through a rough section of town to locate a bar. "Heart of Desire sat on one corner, a tawdry whore of a bar" (p. 137). The dialogue is extremely well written, often times poignant, witty, and figurative. To enhance the characterization the author frequently has Micky reflect her world-weary attitude through a sardonic or self-deprecating comment. Micky is the quintessential hard-boiled private eye doing all the things good detectives do. Yet, when she ventures beyond the scope of her profession, the reader recognizes an emotionally crippled woman, who at best, is reaching for a lifeline with one hand while cutting it with the other. Redmann has created a profoundly memorable character with whom the reader genuinely empathizes. Despite her trenchant flaws and human failings, Micky conscientiously attempts to put things right, to replace chaos with some degree of order, to save those she can, if not herself.
Redmann's stylish depiction of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances has and will continue to withstand the test of time. The Micky Knight novels are intricately developed with meticulously drawn characterizations and thoroughly satisfying action scenes. Micky's casual sexual encounters in the novel serve the reader more to illustrate her inadequacies rather than to titillate. Her intimate scenes with Cornelia display a range of emotions: tenderness, obligation, humor, and anguish. Micky and Cornelia are in so many ways complete opposites. Yet, each woman recognizes in the other that essential component each needs to give her life purpose and a measure of joy.
Redmann's use of the first person point of view is a fairly common device used in detective fiction, but to write the story in any other would certainly detract from the immediacy the reader feels with the protagonist. Micky does have tunnel vision when it comes to certain things in her life, but through this storytelling device, the reader has a better understanding of her motivation, her rationale for acting the way she does, even when it is detrimental to her or those around her. The tone of the story is clearly established through the first person voice. It strips away the layers of pretense, excess, and perplexity in a way that enables the reader to experience a visceral rather than a passive response. Redmann's superlative pacing keeps the action-oriented scenes swiftly moving along with twists and turns that are deftly developed. There is a kind of film noir quality to Micky and her world of crime, deception, and banal immorality. At the same time, Redmann explores those intrinsic qualities like loyalty and compassion that many aspire to yet few achieve. And, it is all done through the steamy haze of the Big Easy and the enigmatic bayou.
The Intersection of Law and Desire is further confirmation that J. M. Redmann is an author of detective novels which transcend the typical format. Her distinctly literary style sets Redmann apart from the others. She has created a memorable persona in the anti-heroine Micky Knight. This is a character who resonantly affects the reader through Micky's arduous struggles to seek both redemption and affirmation. If you are searching for that detective story with depth, style, and quality writing, this novel will not disappoint you. Having read and immensely appreciated all four books in the Knight series, this reviewer hopes that there will indeed be a fifth installment.
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|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2005|
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