Friday, April 22, 2011

Time of Death Highlights Virtual Reality in Crime Solving!

ASIMO uses sensors and intelligent algorithms ...Image via Wikipedia
Virtual reality - Second Life - Non-human avatarImage via Wikipedia
PJ's son Thomas faced his online Avatar enemy in reality!
Time of Death:

A JP Gray Novel

By Shirley Kennett

I started with the latest novel in the PJGray series so I'd be able to add my review during my spotlight of Author Shirley Kennett/Dakota Banks. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it and look forward to reading the other books in the series. The JP Gray novels have a number of my favorite attractions--a strong female lead, a fun-to-watch relationship with another unique character, futuristic use of computers in solving crimes, and a tense, fast-paced drama that succeeds in allowing me to escape into the action!

They say love is blind but that doesn't seem to be the case for Dr. Penelope Jennifer Gray (PJ Gray), psychologist and head of a special unit which uses virtual reality software, created by Dr. Gray, to help solve crimes. Detective Leo Schultz is the head "cop" in her unit and makes it quite clear to PJ that she is a civilian and that he leads the actual police work. In addition to the role issues, Leo is not exactly the man of a woman's dreams, but somehow the two have evolved into a relationship, and now not quite sure what to do with it. But PJ definitely knows what role she plays as Leo's boss and also is quite vocal to share about how he treats her in front of the other officers, how she is to be treated and addressed. Still, it seems the relationship just keeps going...

But in a family drama that PJ and her son faces, Leo proves just how he would be in the father role, as he comes to the rescue of Thomas who got in too deep with an online game group, with a member that has moved the role playing into reality and is out to gather gems that apparently Thomas is supposed to provide!

That could be part of the reason for the cool ending of this particular novel...

Time of DeathBut in the meantime, PJ and Leo have a nude body--found, apparently dumped, along the river--with his face, chest, and genitals mutilated. It is very interesting to watch the photos of the body and scene, as well as gathered evidence entered into a simulation program which PJ then uses to run through "live" as potentially what happened. In the Afterword the author explains what is now available and used, but in her novel, PJ has added artificial intelligence which has the computer offering solutions as well. How Cool! Its use is illustrated quite effectively when, after finding the kill site, the method by which one person, or not, could have handled movement of the body is explored and confirmed.

As with many homicide investigations, family members are the first "persons of interest." I prefer the older less politically correct term, actually--suspect is a much more definitive term, don't you think?

And in this family, two sisters are quite willing to ensure the police consider "the other" sister as the most likely to have killed the dead man, Arlan Merrett. Readers soon find out that Arlan had been engaged to one sister when the other first met and worked to seduce him, and later married.

But there are many more options, including the man's business partner who received total control of their firm upon death and was found to have been having an affair with the deceased.

Step by step, more information is discovered and PJ faithfully feeds it into the program so that a total picture of what happened starts to unfold. Apparently, she was getting close because about that time attempts on PJ's life were made. The protective side of Leo about PJ was fun to watch, although PJ was not thrilled to have her every move monitored...

Discovering family secrets leads to the final solution of this case, but the step-by-step investigation of the crime scene activities was the highlight for me. The author definitely can weave a tale that keeps readers totally involved with the myriad of possibilities and the characters are so well defined that you just know that any one of the  "suspects" could be guilty. Unfortunately, the body count began to rise, making the complexity that more of a problem for the police and there are two different types of murders so that the potential of multiple killers must be investigated.

Adding virtual reality to police procedure investigation just makes it better! Crime scene investigation at its finest, with a romance between an older couple which you just might be able to relate to, but definitely enjoy! What better way to spend a weekend! Highly recommended.


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