BOOK REVIEW: Gradual Descent by Patricia Morrissey

Recently, I received a copy of Gradual Descent, the debut novel of a new mystery series by Patricia Morrissey. Gradual Descent tells the story of a unique forensics team based in Washington D.C. that utilizes individual quirks and strengths to investigate white-collar crime, and challenges the reader’s preconceived notions of those with disabilities.

I agreed to review the book, even though mystery fiction isn’t necessarily my “thing,” because I was curious about the disability angle. As far as I know, Morrissey does not have any disability, and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical that she’d portray the characters in a way that would satisfy me. I didn’t want them to be angels, or heroes, or any of those other stereotypes seen so often in film and print. I tend to be a tough critic, as well (just ask my book club!), so when I was asked to review the book I’m quite certain they didn’t know what they were getting. :)

A few things in the plot were tied up a little too neatly for my taste, but I could say that about other mysteries I’ve read over the years, even ones by much more prominent writers than Ms. Morrissey (which is probably why I don’t read mysteries anymore…your mileage may vary!) However, the book was entertaining and kept my interest (in addition to being a tough critic, I simply won’t finish a book that won’t). In fact, I’m curious to see how Ms. Morrissey’s writing evolves in future novels in the series.

Disclaimers aside, though, I enjoyed the book. Without giving too much away, I will say that I was pleased with how the many characters with disabilities were portrayed. Both their strengths and weaknesses (both related to the disability and not) were featured, but in ways that worked for the story. They were, for the most part, just regular people with “quirks.” In fact, I was reminded many times of my favorite Pixar film, “Finding Nemo” – I love it because of its easy portrayal of many different types of disabilities, and Gradual Descent used the same easy style.

The central character in the book is Pip, the head of the forensics team, who has cerebral palsy. Pip is strong, confident, and able, but she also has character flaws that reinforce the message that she’s just a regular person. She also represents the mother figure for many of her employees, so I could relate to her on that level, as well, as even Pip was forced during the development of the story to rethink her perception and treatment of some of her employees, which I found to be refreshing.

My overall impression of Gradual Descent is that it’s a positive step in portraying people with disabilities and promoting their inclusion, and that’s a Good Thing.

Although I was provided with a paperback copy of the book, I ended up purchasing the Kindle version to read instead, so…I’m giving away my review copy to a lucky reader! I’m bundling it with the beautiful Heart of Haiti star ornament that was featured in yesterday’s post.