There was a time in my life where mystery and detective novels dominated my reading. I loved Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, PD James & Patricia Cornwell. I read everything from hard-boiled noir to cozy cottage mystery. But I reached my breaking one night with a particularly gruesome Ian Rankin novel that had me spending too much time in the serial killer’s head (Red Right Hand). After that my mystery novel reading tailed off, and while I still pick up a mystery story from time to time, and I still addicted to Masterpiece Mystery if I read a mystery now, I've picked it up for its romantic elements. Last month when Sunita and others recommended Binary Witness on twitter, at the time priced at only .99 cents, I took a gamble and order it and requested the sequel Code Runner from Netgalley. I loved them both.
Binary Witness (Amy Lane Mysteries #1) is set in Cardiff and opens with a young woman stalked and attacked outside her house. We are then introduced to Jason Carr, an ex-con former street tough trying to pull his life together. He is unwelcome in his old neighborhood and has strained relationships with his mom Gwen and sister Cerys with whom he lives. He has secured a low-paying job as a cleaner. The work is hard and disgusting but it is honest. Jason doesn't have a lot of opportunities in his life, never has had, but he can't return to his former life and he isn't content to live on welfare.
One of his first assignments brings him to Amy Lane’s doorstep. Amy is a reclusive & neurotic hacker who works as un-official consultant to the Cardiff police force. Her sister in Australia has arranged for the house cleaning service to come and check in on Amy, knowing she often forgets to eat and maintain her house. None of the other cleaners has made it into her house but Jason convinces her to let him in. Once in he sets out to disinfect Amy’s lair, and make her eat. Jason is there when the Cardiff police officers Bryn and Owain arrive to ask for Amy's help in finding a pair of missing girls. Amy who only has fuzzy awarness of the what Jason's actual job duties should be starts treating him as pseudo-assistant and errand boy, and since Jason is captivated by the case as is all of Cardiff he rolls with it. Jason’s street connections and gift of gab become valuable assets to Amy, helping her when she hits dead-ends in her digital sleuthing. Both Amy and Jason frequently over-step legal boundaries in their investigations while Detectives Bryn and Owain look the other way in mild-horror but deep pragmatism.
While the mystery is top-notch what really drew me to the story were the genuine relationships. Amy and Jason’s friendship and partnership is fascinating. I loved how they watched out for each other, their crabby bickering and value they give to each other’s lives. I particularly loved Bryn's suspiscious, hostile yet eventually grudgingly admiration he develops for Jason. While I was completely satisfied with the resolution of the mystery, I was very happy I had Code Runner to jump right into because I wanted to spend more time with Amy and Jason.
4.5 stars to Binary Witness
Code Runner (Amy Lane Mysteries #2):
Code Runner starts several months after the events of Binary Witness. Amy and Jason have found new routines, thriving when busy with cases but struggling with the changes when not caught up in cases. Jason is now employed full-time as Amy’s live-in assistant, and the change in expectations and schedule has caused more than a few conflicts.
Jason takes a couple days of holiday away from Amy to camp at the beach with his mother and sister and stumbles upon a dead body. His first instinct after calling the police is to take pictures for Amy and that nearly gets him arrested. Amy and Jason can’t resist an open case and Jason ends up investigating against the wishes of the police force. In this case Jason’s old gang world and his new world intersect in ways he never anticipated. Framed for the murder of the younger brother of one of his old associates, Jason is arrested and imprisoned. Jason will have to trust Amy to solve the crime without him and do his best to stay alive. Amy has to work without his assistance, outside the usual channels, deprived of her best tech & without the approval of her usual associates.
I read Code Runner in one sitting, once I started I couldn’t put it down. The relationships established in Binary Witness were complicated and tested in Code Runner. I loved that the more Jason and Amy are drawn together the more they are keeping from each other out of fear of destroying their partnership. I really hope there are more Amy Lane Mysteries on the way.
4.5 stars to Code Runner