Who is Rhea Jensen? She’s a recent convert to the Church who has relocated to Salt Lake City and taken work as a private investigator.
Her closest friend, Kathryn McCoy, has likewise moved to Salt Lake.
Although not LDS, McCoy wants to be near her friend. She has landed a juicy post as an on-air news person. Meanwhile, Rhea is dating a fine young fellow who still has some time before he and Rhea can be married in the Temple.
The story begins when a man steps out onto a ledge, threatening to jump.
The news media find their way to the scene very quickly. Kathryn (“Kate” to her friends) is there with her photographer. But she is quick to involve her friend Rhea when certain parts of the story just don’t add up. Who is this guy? And who is the handsome cop who seems to show up at the scene but who ducks when anyone wants to give him some publicity? And what does all this have to do with Rhea’s former boss?
Why is the jumper such a mysterious quantity? And why do pictures of him not seem to jibe?
When the missionary who converted Rhea shows up on her doorstep, does he have something other than proselyting on his mind, or is he really just interested in following up? Rhea’s boyfriend isn’t so sure. They’re keeping an eye on him. He’s a bit clutzy, not sure what he wants to do (except start school at BYU as soon as possible).
As the story unfolds, we meet incompetent mobsters, a diabolical millionaire, a pair of rather inefficient enforcers, and a shy look into secret societies and their sometimes-underhanded ways of dealing with defectors. Not to mention exploding houses and other assorted nicities.
Improbably, the reader is left with an impression that all of these people are, indeed, real people. Real people? Indeed. Pratt has an unfailing sense of voice and tempo. The characters talk like real people. They laugh and cry like real people. Bravo! But, more important, they *act* like real people, and *interact* like the folks next door. As you read, you get crisp, clear visualizations of each of the players. They emerge as distinct personalities, each with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, habits and quirks.
Pratt’s characters are universally flawed. And this is the real revelation here. Can you write about a returning missionary who fumbles and stutters his way through re-entry into regular life? Can you have a convert who isn’t entirely “made new” — she describes herself as having “flexible morals with a comfort zone that expanded outside the norm.”
(p. 126-7) No heroics here, no astoundingly clever Mormons with all kinds of tricks up their sleeves. No angels appearing out of nowhere, no contrived story lines. (There is a bit of sermonizing at the end of the book. I thought it would have been a better book had this been toned down a bit.) Nope, this is a story about people who are trying to make it through the day and not flub things too badly. You know, folks like us.
By far the most interesting character, in my opinion, is Kate. Pratt’s writing is sufficiently vivid to make this slightly-wacky, but very canny, woman an infinitely appealing player. As with the others, she has her flaws. And she carries some baggage with her that is alluded to in the story, but is never made quite clear. Kate is the kind of person you may not want to deal with every day, but you surely want her on your side. Rhea is no slouch, either. But her assertiveness is usually understated. There’s a lot of healthy nuance in this story, and I loved every part of it.
Coming into this series in volume 3 made comprehending the whole thing a little difficult. I found myself having to catch up with the characters and their histories. Pratt spoon-feeds us these background items with some regularity, but a reader can find himself a bit off the reservation when trying to put the whole thing together. I would have liked to have had a summary introduction, bringing readers up to date with the story and the fascinating backgrounds of its characters. I found that I have Book 1 in my collection. I’m going to obtain Books 2 and 4 very soon.
Perhaps reading the previous volumes will help clear up some of the uncertainties.
“City Limits” is a breathless tale of detection and camaraderie, of faith tried in the fire and of loyalties tested. There are no heroes beyond the realm of ordinary heroism. There are villains aplenty, mysteries around every corner, and a cast of characters that will stay with you for a long time. Thanks, Pratt, for giving us a bit of mental floss for the LDS fiction reader. Highly recommended!
Association for Mormon Letters