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RAGE AGAINST THE DYING by Becky Masterman: Book Review

I’m not aware of any other mystery novels featuring a gray-haired fifty-nine-year-old female retired F.B.I. agent.  That’s one of the reasons that Rage Against the Dying is a most enjoyable read.

Brigid Quinn is trying to start a new life for herself in Tucson.  She’s happily married to Carlo, a charming ex-Catholic priest whom she met while taking his Buddhism course.  They’ve been married just a year, her first marriage and his second.  But Brigid is keeping lots of secrets from her husband because a former lover wasn’t able to deal with the violent and dangerous aspects of her job, and she’s worried that Carlo will feel the same way.

So even though Brigid is no longer an active agent, she’s fearful of letting Carlo know all the details of her past career.  Her specialty, she tells him as she tells anyone who asks, was copyright fraud, dull enough to stop inquisitive conversations dead in their tracks.

Her carefully kept secret life starts to unravel when Brigid is accosted in the desert by Gerald Peasil, who takes her by surprise and drags her into the cab of his truck.  When she sees the blood on the cab’s floor, she realizes she’s not his first victim. Surprising Gerald by her strength, in the ensuing fight she stabs his leg with the blade of her specially-designed walking stick, and he dies. Terrified at having to explain the homicide to Carlo, even though it was justified, Brigid manages to tip the truck into a nearby wash and heads home to clean herself off.

A week afterwards, deputy sheriff Max Coyote comes to the house to tell Brigid that they have caught the infamous Route 66 killer.  A man arrested two weeks earlier on a minor charge has now confessed to killing six young women, including Jessica Robertson, an F.B.I. agent who was Brigid’s protege.  Brigid has never forgiven herself for allowing Jessica to be used as a decoy to trap the Route 66 killer; she has agonized for years, fearing that she sent the young agent out before she was ready.  Jessica’s body was never recovered.

At first Laura Coleman, the young agent who interrogated the prisoner, Floyd Lynch, has no doubt of the truth of his confession and his guilt of the several murders abutting Route 66.  But as the interrogation tape is replayed, she begins to have doubts.  However, no one will listen to her; even Floyd’s own defense attorney believes in his admitted guilt.  So Laura turns to Brigid for help.

Brigid Quinn is a very interesting heroine.  A successful federal agent, she was forced to resign after an outcry to her fully justified shooting of a murderer.  That, in combination with her feelings of guilt over Jessica’s disappearance and presumed death, has made her a keeper of secrets, fearful that those closest to her will be horrified and unable to love her.  So her lies keep getting more and more involved, even as she agrees with Laura that Floyd Lynch is not the true Route 66 killer.  But if he’s not, who is?  And how did Floyd come to know details about those killings that were never released?

Becky Masterman has created a fascinating cast of characters in her debut novel, and Brigid Quinn is a protagonist worth following.  You can read more about her at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Reads blog at her web site.

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