Marko Zorn is back in this followup to 2020’s The Reflecting Pool, the first book in the series, which I reviewed here – one year ago exactly to when I finished reading Head Shot. Something probably interesting only to me.
Zorn is the same cop now as we was then: not carrying a gun, being snarky, not always telling people what he’s doing, and meeting up with shady characters. While it is helpful to get a feel for Zorn’s character by reading the first book, it is not at all required, as Head Shot can be read as a standalone.
The book opens with the murder of an actress, with whom Zorn was intimately familiar years ago. It’s a classic locked room mystery: the actress said her final line, and went to her (prop) dressing room to commit suicide in the play (it’s Hedda Gabler, for those who know Ibsen). Strangely, she flubbed her last line before going off the stage. A shot did ring out, but when the stagehand goes into the room, the actress is dead on the floor, a pistol by her right hand, and a gunshot wound to her left temple. There are no windows in the room, and only one door, which no one saw open after the end of the scene, when the actress was supposed to go backstage when the lights were down. Zorn is not assigned to the case, but his partner Lucy is.
He also goes to a meeting with Cyprian Voss, who often gives him side jobs to do, and pays well for him to do them. The assignment from Voss? Protect Nina Voychek, Prime Minister of Montenegro, which is on an official state visit.
Zorn has been asked by the Secretary of State to do the same task, as it was requested by the Embassy itself. When he tries to point out he is not trained as a bodyguard or close protection detail, he’s overruled and told to suck it up and do it anyway. At the Embassy, a frightened young woman presses a paper into his hand. On it, a series of numbers. He assumes it’s a coded message of some kind. He gives her his card and asks her to call him. She doesn’t, as the next time we hear about her, she’s dead, too, after being strangled.
There have already been assassination attempts against Voycheck, and the suspicion is that it’s a hired gun called Domino, who has an impressive success rate. Turns out, Zorn has had assassination attempts against himself as well, but for what reason, he does not know.
Things become a bit hectic in Zorn’s world at that point: he’s checking on the security covering Voychek (the lead FBI agent wants nothing to do with him and flatly tells him he isn’t welcome), and bouncing between that and the case of the murdered actress and is told by a supervisor and another cop that he isn’t welcome there, either). Is there a connection between the two cases? Maybe, maybe not.
The action picks up and we follow Zorn as he checks in with a hacker and gives him the message to decode, checks in with Carla, director of the FBI, who also wants him to protect Voychek, also paying him to do so. He doesn’t mention that he’s already being paid by Voss.
As Zorn puts the pieces together, more bodies show up. and there are plenty of suspects to go around. Eccentric or no, do any of them hold some answers to the slew of questions Zorn has about the cases?
Head Shot is a fast read, not because it’s boring and the temptation to skim is there, but because it is quite good, and leaving aside a few of the things that require more suspension of disbelief than is usually required, the things that happen and the actions of the various characters is completely consistent with the story’s own internal logic.
A solid four out of five stars.
Thanks to Oceanview Publishing and NetGalley for the reading copy.