With a background in theater, it's no surprise that Kathleen George's novels are intricately plotted affairs with well-developed characters.
What could be viewed as curious is George's milieu. Her books -- "Fallen," "Taken" and the new "Afterimage" -- are crime novels, the genre that ranges from bloody pulp fiction to twee English mysteries involving tea and little old ladies.
George, a professor of theater at the University of Pittsburgh who lives in the North Side, is merely following a precedent set by William Shakespeare.
"When you think of how many bodies pile up in 'Hamlet' and how bloody "MacBeth' is," George says, "seriously, the crimes are horrible that he writes. ... It's what he does with them that makes them somehow acceptable in a larger picture. I do remind myself constantly that there are always crimes in Dickens, there are always crimes in Hardy, and how about Dostoevsky? Criminal behavior is part of storytelling, sometimes."
In "Afterimage," three murders occur in less than 36 hours, straining the resources of the Pittsburgh Police Department. One seems to have an obvious motive and method. Two are curious in their execution and motivation: The murders of a woman in the East End and a 12-year-old girl from the North Side that seemingly have no connection. A new character, rookie detective Colleen Greer, is assigned to the murder of the young girl and senses that the two crimes are intertwined.
Greer joins a cast that includes homicide chief Richard Christie, who appeared in "Fallen" and "Taken." George wanted to explore the dynamics between the police, victims and criminals, and especially how Greer becomes smitten with Christie, who is married.
"In all of those situations, I was playing around with the idea of power, male and female relationships, and sexuality," George says. "Colleen's attraction to Christie is not exactly a pure thing. He's a nice guy, but she has needs that make him very appealing …