Beyond the series

Ipicked up Lee Goldberg’s “The Silent Partner” at a library book sale for a quarter and I got my money’s worth and even a little more. It’s the debut novel based on the “Diagnosis Murder” TV series, which Goldberg produced, which means that a) the DM world is accurately drawn, b) Goldberg can put the characters into situations that the show couldn’t, and c) there’s a potential fan base who would buy the books.

Given all that, Goldberg still has to d) deliver a good story that’ll keep the fans coming back, and he does that here. Dr. Mark Sloan’s reputation for solving crimes lands him on a cold-case squad, but he learns that its only going to be used as a PR screen. Nevertheless, his curiosity gets him involved in what appears to be a solved murder, only to deduce that it’s not.

“The Silent Partner” delivers an interesting story, letting you spend some time with familiar, likeable characters. So, what’s the difference between this and “The Crossworder’s Gift,” which wants to deliver an interesting story, etc., etc.? Mark Sloan and his friends and co-workers come across as idealized, but real characters. While they’re all decent people, they get pissed, make mistakes, and Dr. Sloan can be a real pain in the ass. In one scene, he’s trying to prove that a bottle cap found at the scene of several murders is a vital clue, and you can understand the chief of police’s point of view: “Uh huh, right, don’t you have any house calls, doctor?”

It may be faint praise to call “The Silent Partner” a competent mystery that appears to have been dashed off, but it takes a lot of work and experience to make something look so effortless.