My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Jodi Compton has toned up her plotting skills in Sympathy Between Humans, the sequel to her debut novel, The 37th Hour. In 37th, protagonist Detective Sarah Pribeck embarked on a search for her missing husband, only two months after their marriage. It becomes evident that his disappearance is connected to the murder of her partner’s daughter. Although the murderer got off on a technicality, his later death in an arson fire remains an open case. As Sympathy opens, her husband has been imprisoned for his part in that investigation, and her partner, brokenhearted, has taken herself off to Europe. Now Sarah is struggling to adjust to life without the two most important individuals in her life, and, although she knows who wreaked vengeance on the murderer, she keeps that knowledge to herself, even when it happens that she’s now the prime suspect.
Delving into her work to help keep her loneliness at bay, Sarah is approached by a teenage girl, asking her to find her missing twin brother, Aiden Hennessy. As her investigation progresses, she becomes increasingly perplexed by the circumstances of the Hennessy family, which, in surprising ways, remind Sarah of her own disjointed upbringing. She’s also assigned to investigate a doctor practicing without a license. Juggling her loneliness, her memories, her status as a suspect, and these two cases challenge Sarah’s beliefs and principles.
Author Compton’s strength lies in her ability to create multidimensional characters who grapple with problems familiar to us all. The lines between legal and moral right, wrong, and justice are often blurry, and one of Sympathy’s main themes deals with that complexity. Where is there room for compassion? What exactly is justice? There is no black or white, and Sarah must find a way to do her job without compromising her belief system. Ms. Compton skillfully brings these cases to satisfying, though not “happily ever after” conclusions, while leaving her readers eager to discover where Sarah goes next.