Monday, November 21, 2016

Deadly Obsession (Detective Jason Strong #13), by John C. Dalglish (author), James Killavey (narrator)

John C. Dalglish, August 2016

This is a fast-paced, short novel, just over four hours. A suburban housewife is murdered on the steps of her front door, and investigation shows no apparent motive. When her son is shot in front of the home a few days later, Jason Strong and Vanessa Lane have new questions to ask, starting in some seemingly unlikely places.

There's a strong story here, and good characters. Both male and female characters are well handled. It's enough to make me believe Dalglish is young enough to have grown up in a world where the personhood of female people is just assumed! (Hey, sorry, but it's a nice change to have seen happen over the course of my lifetime.)

Sadly, this makes it extra noticeable that the narrator, while not bad, does not serve the writing here especially well. He reads all the male parts in a very strong, manly voice. No, that doesn't really convey it. The narrator reads the male parts in A Strong, MANLY Voice! It's mildly annoying, though after the start, it never kicked me out of the story.

The audiobook is still well worth listening to. It may be even easier to lose yourself in the print edition, though.

In an overall enjoyable book, I do have one criticism for Mr. Dalglish, though. Jason and Vanessa discover that the possible villain has posted to Facebook from two public library branches. They visit the two branches, where library staff hand over the required user information--on everyone using the internet from the library in the relevant timeframes, not even information on one particular user--without even asking why, much less asking for a warrant.

Librarians are professionals. We have professional and ethical standards, and your library information is private and protected. The government and its agents don't get to waltz in and browse through it, any more than they can get your phone data or the IP address from which you posted to Facebook without a warrant. The Facebook example isn't random; it's a point explicitly made in the story that not only do they need a warrant to get the Facebook info, but the warrant needs to be as narrow as possible. And Facebook is run by geeks and business people, not by members of a profession for whom freedom of access to information is a core belief. That means that no, Mr. Dalglish, we do not hand over to police information on what library users are reading or when they access the internet on library computers, or what they look at when they do, unless they have a warrant for that information.

And the police in this story had the information they needed to get that warrant. It wasn't even "for the plot," but just because Mr. Dalglish, like so many others, thinks we are file clerks and baby sitters, not professionals with professional standards and professional ethics.

This made me angry, and I'm sorry about that. This really is an enjoyable book. But that doesn't make it okay for a writer to take the time to get it right about what Facebook needs to hand over your information, and then utterly disregard that for the people who are actually educated in saying no to police officers who might just want to go on a fishing expedition. Our professional standards forbid cooperating with that, and in many states that non-cooperation without a warrant is also the law. Maybe not in Texas. But even in Texas, librarians are still professionals, with professional standards and professional ethics.

Recommended anyway.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the author.