Sometimes a person (or character) will just rub you the wrong way. So it is with Madison Knight in Ties That Bind by Carolyn Arnold for me. As a detective, Madison hates clichés as much as, well, seemingly most people. She is Kojak with a candy bar substituting for the lollypop but without the charm. Her attempts at empathy are mostly swallowed up as repetitious and muddled internal thoughts. She appears uncomfortable in her own skin, and I never knew if she was going to laugh or punch her partner one more time. (I'd have hit her back a few times!) The book has more than its share of clichés in the form of cardboard characters, a sounding-board partner with belabored personal issues dragged out far too long, and an overused twist regarding the bad guy--though it was nicely handled.
My copy of the story had numerous formatting issues. I can't hold that against the author, but I believe a stronger editor would have tightened the decent story line, cutting some of the lengthier scenes and eviscerating the partner. (Second bananas need to bring something to the table, and he just doesn’t.) Is it really that bad? No. Personal preferences will draw (and have drawn) some readers to Madison's tough-as-nails personality. The investigation proceeds more like real-life: hard work, bad breaks, lucky finds, bad timing, confusion, inexperience, intrusive politics, etc. The twists are well handled, and while the suspense is not as sharp as it could be, it was there. All total though, this is just a slightly better than average read, shy of a four rating. It is a "3."