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A GOOD KILL by John McMahon: Book Review

In May, 2020 I reviewed John McMahon’s second novel about P. T. Marsh, closing with the statement that I was eagerly awaiting the next book in which I hoped to learn the truth about the death of his wife and his son, a traumatic event that has haunted Marsh in the two years since their deaths.  In A Good Kill, the third mystery in the series, we learn that what appeared to be a tragic accident was in fact a deliberate murder of two innocents and how a long and twisted path led to the events of that night.

A Good Kill opens with the all-too-familiar scenario of a man holding hostages inside an elementary school.  Detective Marsh and his partner Remy Morgan have been called to the site, along with other members of the Mason Falls, Georgia, police department.  From Marsh’s vantage point he sees into the school’s art room, where a man is holding a gun, another man is lying dead on the floor, and three students and a teacher are watching in horror.

At that moment Marsh gets a call on his cell from Georgia Governor Toby Monroe.  Without putting it into words, Monroe reminds Marsh of a past favor he had done for the detective and tells him how grateful he and all the state’s citizens would be if Marsh could “take him (the gunman) out now.”  And a few seconds later, as the shooter turns his gun toward the three young girls in the classroom, P. T. takes aim and shoots him dead.

The gunman is identified as Jed Harrington, and when the police arrive at his home, they find a case with several other guns inside.  Marsh becomes a hero, if only temporarily, but he’s bothered by the situation.  Something doesn’t fit the picture of a school shooter.  Why had Harrington gone to the school with only one pistol?  Why hadn’t he armed himself better?

And because of the favor Marsh owes Monroe, the detective is now agonizing about whether his shooting the gunman was a “good kill” or a favor returned.  He can’t get this question out of his mind.

In addition, Marsh has just found out that attorney Lauten Hartley has been appointed to the city’s police oversight board.  Hartley is a bitter enemy of Marsh’s, while the detective’s take on the lawyer is that he’s corrupt.  The feeling of antagonism escalates between the two of them, especially after Hartley’s warning, “I run the board now.  So who knows what could happen to you.”

John McMahon’s third novel in the P. T. Marsh series is as good as the first two, and that’s very good indeed.  The plot crackles with tension, and Marsh and his partner Remy are characters readers will root for.

You can read more about the author at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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