REVIEW: Pentimento Blues (Bellingham Mysteries #6) by Nicole Kimberling
The Final Mystery
Now that small-town reporter Peter Fontaine has gotten hitched to the man of his dreams, he thinks his days of solving crimes are over. But after a decades-old secret is revealed, a dead body is found and Peter’s husband Nick is at the top of the suspect list. Peter must harness his power of ultimate nosiness to find one last killer.
Dear Nicole Kimberling,
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the final story in the Bellingham mysteries was out on Amazon. I don’t know for sure whether this is the final book or not, I am just speculating based on the book being named “the final mystery”.
Sunita reviewed some of the previous stories here at DA. I actually hesitated for a minute or two before buying this one because I thought that the fifth book left our heroes in a very good place. Of course my hesitation was short lived, and I am glad that I read this one. The very beginning of the story shows very well why I like your writing so much.
“Though it might seem paradoxical, for the normal inhabitant of the Pacific Northwest the only thing worse than months of gray cloud-cover and endless light drizzle is month after month of blue skies and relentless sunshine. Peter Fontaine, small-town reporter and big-time busybody, was no exception to this rule. A sunny day, he felt, should be a rare and beautiful event when one rushed, squinting, into the brightness to revel and luxuriate in warmth and vitamin D production. It should be, itself, cause for celebration. But this year? This year the sun had shown up like an unwanted houseguest in mid-April and hung around for four months, endlessly staring down on Bellingham as if to ask, “So, what are we up to today, bro?”
Three years have passed since Peter and Nick got married in the fifth book. Early in this story a very unpleasant fellow journalist named Sam visits Peter and asks if he can check out certain paintings in Peter and Nick’s home. Peter allows it, although soon it becomes clear that Sam is a sleaze ball and moreover, Nick knows Sam well enough to violently throw Sam out without telling Peter why.
Peter goes and gets drunk enough that Nick has to get him and bring him home. The next day Peter goes to the hotel where Sam is staying to return Sam’s phone. Sam had been taking photos of the paintings, and when Nick discovered that he grabbed the phone away from him. When Peter asks for Sam at the hotel he learns that Sam has already received two visitors, one of whom was Nick.
You may have already guessed that when Peter comes into Sam’s room he finds Sam dead. Of course Peter’s first thought is that Nick may have killed him, but he doesn’t want to believe it.
And boy was I proud of Peter’s next actions. Of course he called Nick to tell him about Sam’s death (and Nick was very confused when Peter tried to hint what happened), but he also called the police almost immediately. And he did not *hide* anything he knew from the police when police came. Yes, readers, it is possible to write a mystery about an amateur sleuth without making him look like a total idiot. This series shows us that.
Granted, Peter made his fair share of mistakes in previous books, but it is clear that he has learned from them and grown as a person. Of course, since these books have an amateur sleuth as a main character, so Peter decides to do some investigating again, mostly because his husband appears to be involved (if not in the murder then in whatever secret Sam was trying to find out). But Peter also just enjoys investigations, I think, and the fact that he is an investigative journalist by trade made it even easier for me to suspend disbelief about Peter’s detective work.
So why I did I conclude that Peter learned from his mistakes and grew as a person? Well, for example, he asks Nick to go with him to interrogate a witness when he knows it could be dangerous to go there alone.
“Nick regarded Peter for a long moment. Then he gently put his hand on Peter’s shoulder and said, “Just to be sure, are you suggesting that you and I should go find and attempt to interrogate a violent pimp in a meth motel? And that we should do this when there are perfectly good police who we pay to perform dangerous tasks such as that?” “When you put it like that it sounds foolhardy.” Peter leaned over and kissed Nick’s big hand. “But it’s not like it’s the middle of the night. By the time we’d get there it would be like eight in the morning. And it’s really sunny.” “I don’t think the weather is relevant. He’s a professional criminal, not a vampire,” Nick remarked.”
I cheered when I read this – I certainly understand Peter’s reluctance to involve the police in his investigation when they seem to have decided that Nick is a primary suspect, but I would have been very annoyed if he had chosen to rush into danger alone. I would have also thought that this behavior was getting old by now.
I thought Nick and Peter were solid in this book despite them being angry at each other in the beginning – I thought Nick had a perfectly good justification to not tell Peter why he would have nothing to do with Sam, but I also thought that his realization that being quiet would make things worse was well done.
I also thought that some of their interactions were hilarious, even when it concerned some life and death stuff, or stuff they thought could be related to life and death.
“What is it?” Peter asked. “You have the weirdest expression on your face,” Nick remarked. “Were you having some kind of daydream?” “No, I was thinking that if you’ve killed Sam, I wouldn’t turn you in.” A shocked expression of surprise crossed Nick’s face; then he said, “Lucky for Justice, I didn’t.” “So where did you get that black eye, anyway?” Peter tried to ask this casually, as if there were no connection to the conversation they were having.
Nick paused, smirked, and actually laughed out loud. “Are you kidding?” “No, I’m not.” “I got it from you.” Nick shook his head. “You don’t remember it?” “No,” Peter said. “No wonder the cops asked me about it.” “No wonder the cops took me in directly afterward,” Nick said ruefully. “I took a swing at you?” Peter knew he’d been drunk and fairly surly, but he’d never been much of a scrapper—not even when completely inebriated. “No, you kicked me in the face when I was trying to take your shoes off,” Nick said. “That’s why I woke up wearing one shoe!” Peter congratulated himself on solving at least one mystery—even if it was more or less a preschool-level one. “Oh jeez, Nick, I’m sorry.”
I really liked this story overall, but I just don’t get how I was supposed to guess the villain. When the villain was revealed the story made perfect sense, and the red herrings were very well done, for not one but *two* faux villains.
What made me scratch my head was the real villain. I understood his motivations, but I am just not sure what clues I missed when I looked back after I finished.