Miami, It’s Murder

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The past reverberates through MIAMI, IT’S MURDER, where DAILY NEWS police reporter Britt Montero risks present friends and her own future in covering a serial rapist, a string of bizarre deaths involving old murder suspects, and a gubernatorial candidate with a skeleton in his closet.

Written by Edna Buchanan, a MIAMI HERALD journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize for her police reporting, this crime novel continues where 1992’s CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE concluded. Returning along with the Cuban American newswoman are her photographer pal Lottie, her newsroom deskmate Ryan, and her editors Gretchen and Fred. Also back are former lover Kendall McDonald, now a police lieutenant; recently retired homicide detective Dan Flood; her doting mother; Mrs. Goldstein the landlady; and her housepets Billy Boots and Bitsy. They all figure in Montero’s hunt for a big story—which becomes one about crime and punishment, but one she did not foresee.

Featured again is Buchanan’s knack for economical writing, combining plot twists, local color, and depiction of the adrenalin-charged excitement of the pursuit—whether it is a collar or a scoop. Even as she drifts toward formula, however, inconsistencies emerge. Instead of avoiding predictability, Buchanan creates troubling distractions. Like few cops, the two closest to Montero have undergone major personality changes: McDonald has become a conceited jerk, Flood a compliant softy. Like most journalists, Montero juggles editors’ demands and readers’ complaints, truth and facts, tips and rumors, and justice and law and order. (And sometimes she drops the ball.) Nevertheless, her life is both incredible in a positive sense and sensational in a negative one.

It is unbelievable how much adventure Montero enjoys—or endures. Although entertaining, the plot is presented in a way that is similar to what Danielle Steele might write if she were to write for some supermarket tabloid. In fact, Buchanan’s life itself seems to be a whirlwind of achievements and recognition, television ambitions and fame on the edges. Perhaps that has all contributed to a sense of “deathstyles of the rich and famous.” Still, glimpses of the precelebrity writer are offered in dialogue and description blending with occasional characterization and immodest personal asides. Her inconsistency does not seem fatal; her future seems as bright as the Florida sun.