Detectives Jack Murphy and Liddell Blanchard are loaned out to the FBI and head out to a rural town to help the local investigate a series of murders, all of which have occurred in March, and all with the same general circumstances.
Possible spoilers here on out.
This is the ninth book in the Jack Murphy series by Rick Reed, himself former law enforcement, but only the first that I have read. I had no issues reading this as a standalone, as there were instances where a bit of information was passed along regarding events in previous books. The author’s knowledge about how police departments work is, of course, good, but I think this book tries far too hard at the buddy cop stuff between Murphy and the much, much larger, former football player turned detective Blanchard, whom Murphy calls Bigfoot. There is a lot of banter between Murphy and Blanchard that is supposed to be humorous but which got old fast, squabbling between the two Chiefs (one male, one female – obviously their fighting means they’re secretly in love with one another) in the neighboring counties Murphy and Blanchard are sent to, and a handful of times where the author seems to think readers won’t understand something, like “G-man” referring to Federal agents.
“Rosie said, “Follow me G-men.” [sic]
Jack smiled at her use of the old moniker for an FBI Agent. ‘G-man’ was underworld slang for anyone working for the government. It meant government man.
There is a passage where one law enforcement characters tells another that they must “have some tall” to get a piece of information, and the author informs the reader that “tall” means pull or influence – why not just say “pull”, then?
At the beginning, we’re told via a couple pages long expositional speech by Angelina Garcia, the computer whiz who can apparently hack into anything, that the murders all occurred in March, as noted above. As an aside here, I can deduce that the writer may be a fan of the TV show Criminal Minds. The computer guru on the show is called Garcia by the agents of the BAU. Her full name is Penelope Garcia. The IT whiz in the book covers the last name, and the female Chief’s daughter is named Penelope.
Another annoyance I have with some writers is when they will have a piece of information be given to the reader in some way (such as in a summary given by the IT whiz), then repeated, and then given again, spelled out for both another character and the reader.
“Five murders in seven years,” Jack mused. “One seven years ago, two more at five years, one at three years, and one that just happened. All in March.”
“March is important to the killer,” Liddell said.
“Something got this guy started killing. Whatever it was must have happened at least seven years ago in March. Most of the serial killers we’ve dealt with needed symbolism. Sometimes they were sending us a message, sometimes they were sending it to other possible victims.”
Writers, don’t treat your readers like they’re stupid.
The plot revolves around two very small PDs and the two on loan agents figuring out the common connection between the victims of what they correctly believe is a serial killing, following the more than ample clues, and nabbing the bad guy(s) in the end. There is a secondary, personal lives story running through, because Murphy and his ex-wife are getting remarried, and Blanchard and his wife are expecting a child.
The number one villain is not really a surprise, although I have to credit the author for not introducing the villain three pages before the end, as I have the misfortune of seeing in some other books. There is one villain that is introduced but whose identity as it relates to the main villains and the deaths does come in just before the end, which is a bit of cheating, as there’s no hint at all that the person is anything or anyone other than how they are introduced earlier.
Overall, it’s a serviceable serial killer novel, with the action taking place in a rural area filled with closed out coal mines.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington for the advance copy.