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Book Author: John McMahon

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.


THE EVIL MEN DO by John McMahon: Book Review

A routine wellness check is the start of a murder investigation for Georgia police detective P. T. Marsh and his partner Remy Morgan.  When they arrive at the home of wealthy businessman Ennis Fultz, they find his naked body stretched out on his bed, an oxygen tank nearby.

As the investigation gets underway, Marsh is getting different versions of the dead man.  A framed wall photo of a real estate magazine cover shows a photo of Fultz with the caption THE MOST HATED MAN IN AMERICA.  When the chief of police arrives, he tells Marsh and Morgan that the deceased was a good man.  But in Fultz’s ex-wife’s opinion, “Ennis was charming.  He was handsome.  And he was a son of a bitch.”

Then Fultz’s housekeeper says that that her late boss had a reputation as a ruthless, no-nonsense businessman, one who did his homework and found a way to get the best of every opponent.   However, she continues, after a recent hospitalization he seemed to have become a new man, giving her a gift of $6,000 for no particular reason.  The housekeeper, nicknamed Ipsy, also tells the detectives how he helped a couple who had been living illegally on his land by making the man a groundskeeper and assisting the man and his wife in adopting a homeless child.  Can anyone have this many sides to him?

Then Sarah Raines, the medical examiner, tells Marsh that Fultz had died of nitrogen poisoning, and Marsh realizes that the tank that was next to his bed must have been filled not with oxygen but with nitrogen, which when inhaled is deadly.

P. T. is dealing with a number of things outside of the case.  His wife and child were killed in what appeared to be a car accident less than two years earlier, and although he is in a relationship with Sarah, he doesn’t know if he will ever be able to commit to her.   In addition, he was involved in a shooting, and now the dead man’s sister wants not only a financial settlement from the city but an apology from P. T.  The city is agreeable, but the detective is not.

Interspersed with Marsh’s narrative is a story told by a young girl.  The reader doesn’t know her name or her connection to the murder; all we know is that she was riding in a car with her parents when a car began following them.  Her parents appear unaware, but the little girl can see the car coming faster and closer until it pushes their Hyundai off the road.  And then the girl wakes up in a hospital and looking out the window in her room she sees the white Toyota van that deliberately crashed into her father’s car.

John McMahon has written an amazing novel.  His characters are realistic, his plot engrossing.  At the end of The Evil Men Do, Marsh has solved one case but is looking for answers in another.  I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the third book in the series and hoping to learn the truth about the deaths of his wife and son.

You can read more about John McMahon 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 Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.