Deb Ralston

(creator: Lee Martin)

Lee Martin
Det Deb Ralston Is a detective in the Major Case Squad at Fort Worth, Texas. She has also worked in Homicide and in the Sex Crimes Unit. She is 5' 2" tall and is married to Harry, an ex-marine who had been a test pilot, but had later moved to management. She became an adult convert to Mormonism but her two adopted daughters remained Baptists and "look on my Mormonism the same way my mother does, as a temporary aberration I will undoubtedly recover from one day." However, her foster child, Lori, had also joined the Mormons, of which her adopted teenaged son, Hal, had long been a member. It is Deb who tells the story throughout.

Lee Martin is a pen name for Martha Anne Guice whose married name is Anne Wingate (1943 - ). She also writes under the name of Martha G Webb. Like her creation, Deb Ralston, she was an adult convert to the Mormon church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). She is a former policewoman who spent many years as a crime scene investigator. She was awarded an MA (English) at the Texas Woman's University in 1982 and a Ph.D. (English/creative writing) at the University of Utah in 1989. She has written over twenty novels. She is partner, with her second husband, in Wingate & Wingate, Writers, who offer a ghost writing service, and she also owns Live Oak House, an e-publishing company.

Both Anne and her husband describe themselves as semi-invalids, suffering from Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), and in March 2012 she was also diagnosed with mild Parkinson's. She should not be confused with other authors with the name Lee Martin.

Inherited Murder (1994)
Inherited Murder is the 10th book in the series. Deb had promised her husband, Harry, that she'll happily forget police work for three weeks and enjoy a real family vacation travelling by van from Fort Worth,Texas, to Salt Lake City, Utah. So off they went, taking with them their adopted half-Korean 19-year-old son Hal (whom they had to deliver to the Latter-Day Saints Missionary Training Center, prior to him setting off on a two-year mission as a Mormon), his girlfriend, Lori, and
Cameron, (their own four-year-old son), together with their fearsome pitbull, complete with a special doggy seat belt.

In Salt Lake City, they settle into Georgina Grafton's bed-and-breakfast, but while sightseeing on the second day, they find the body of Georgina's sister, Alexandra, who had been killed by a fist-sized rock aimed at the back of her head. Although Deb is way out of her area of jurisdiction, she and her husband soon get involved in helping a reluctant fellow-Mormon, Salt Lake City Police Detective Charlie Sosa, with the case. They learn that Alexandra had been a victim of multiple personality disorder since her childhood when, aged five, she had witnessed her own mother's murder (she had been killed in just the same way as Alexandra) and, regressing to this age, she had drawn innumerable sketches of it.

The most interesting part of the story is the Mormon background, as when, after Hal's packed-out Missionary Farewell service, there is a reception at home where "Mormon friends were wildly congratulating him, wishing him a successful mission, and slipping money into his pocket every chance they got – the missionary is supposed to support himself the two years of his mission on money he has saved and money his family provides, but in practice friends help too." He "was not supposed to watch television except the news, or listen to music that wasn't spiritually uplifting, or read anything that wasn't connected with his mission." And he wasn't even allowed to kiss Lori good-bye.

it was interesting too to hear Charlie Sosa, talking about his own past history, explaining how the LDS contributed towards education in Indian reservations where children were often sent to boarding schools "which tend to break up the family horribly, and depending on who ran the boarding school you were indoctrinated into whatever they wanted you to think. The LDS church didn't have boarding schools. Instead, the 20 or so years, they – the Church – would take Indian children – mostly Navajo, but some other tribes too - off the reservation, with their parents' consent, and send them to live with some nice Anglo Mormon family, mostly in Utah or Idaho, where they could get a better education and learn to function in the white man's world." Whether they also tried to indoctrinate them, we are not told!

Unfortunately, though, the story is very slow moving and fails to hold the attention throughout. One of the more lively sections is a brief visit to a gambling casino in Las Vegas: " I have never in all my life seen so many people trying to get something for nothing and, in general, not succeeding .... the only term that came to my mind to describe this place was Temple of Mammon, filled with devout worshippers of whom I did not wish to be one." Unfortunately, this does not have much to do with the plot.

Then there is the intriguing description of how on July 24, 1847, Salt Lake City was founded in a dry and barren valley: "Brigham Young, lying sick inside the covered wagon, crawled out leaning heavily on his cane, looked down at the valley ahead to see if it matched the place he had seen in his vision, and said, "This is the right place. Drive on," and the wagon train containing a hundred and forty-three men, three women and two children drove down into the valley .... Digging and planting began that very first day, in ground that was so hard that they broke two iron plows." But this too has no real connection with the main plot.

Although another couple of murders follow, there is little feeling of suspense or excitement. Instead we get incredibly lengthy descriptions of, for example, the contents of one of the murder victim's rooms, after which we are told, "There was nothing there at all to show why she was killed, not that I expected anything." But why inflict so much of it on the reader?

The only really exciting bit comes right at the end, but then even this is followed by unnecessarily lengthy explanations. Altogether, I'm afraid I found it all rather too "cozy". Perhaps the other books have a bit more bite to them.

Reviews of some of the other books to follow.

There is an article about her in Wikipedia and more imformation about her, including a brief biography on the Wingate-Firms site

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