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Posts Tagged ‘murdered teenager’

WHAT YOU BREAK by Reed Farrel Coleman: Book Review

Gus Murphy is a man trying to regain his equilibrium.  He was a policeman in Suffolk County, New York, on the tip of Long Island.  He had a wife whom he loved and two teenage children who made his life complete; everything was going well until his son John died suddenly while playing basketball.  In What You Break, the second in the series, this happened in the recent past–some three years ago.  Gus’ world was turned upside down by his son’s death, and it hasn’t gotten any easier with time.

Now Gus drives a van for the Paragon Hotel as well as working as security for the hotel and its on-site club.  Although Paragon may sound upscale, the hotel is anything but; it’s simply a place for a weary traveler to stay for a night while waiting for the next morning’s flight or for a businessman/woman to stay while visiting clients in the area.  In other words the hotel is hardly a destination, more of an enforced stop.

Although he is no longer a cop, Gus still has a cop’s instincts, and when he picks up two passengers at Suffolk County’s MacArthur airport in Islip, his attention is drawn not to the annoyingly chatty man he’s transporting but to the man in the rear of the van who says nothing at all.  “…he was a runner, that I knew.  A street cop…knows a runner when he sees one.”  Not surprisingly, he is right.  This feeling of something “off” about the stranger is confirmed when the man enters the Paragon.  When Slava, the night bellman, and the man exchange glances, Gus can see there’s a history between them and it’s not a happy one.

The next morning Gus is still thinking about the new guest when he gets a call from Bill Kilkenny, an ex-priest.  Father Bill, as Gus still thinks of him, is probably Gus’ closest friend, a man who has kept the compassion of his former vocation but not the faith.  He asks Gus to come to his apartment but gives no reason.  Shortly after Gus’ arrival, another man comes in.  He’s introduced as Micah Spears, and the ex-cop takes an immediate dislike to him.  He knows it’s irrational, but there’s something about the man that rubs Gus the wrong way.

Micah explains that his young granddaughter, a recent college graduate, was killed, stabbed twenty-three times.  He doesn’t want Gus to find the murderer; the guilty man is in prison for life.  No, what Micah wants is to find the reason Linh was killed because he can’t think of any motive for her death.  Gus refuses the job, but Micah has an inducement that’s hard to turn down:  a fifty thousand dollar check to establish a foundation in the name of Gus’s late son plus a two hundred thousand dollar donation to a local hospital for research in the area of Gus’ choice.

So, reluctantly, because he can understand the pain of a man who has lost someone he loves without a reason, Gus accepts the case, little realizing it’s a first step into a maelstrom of violence and revenge.

Reed Farrel Coleman continues his winning streak with What You Break.  It’s a hard-boiled novel featuring a protagonist with a broken heart.  The characters are realistic, the setting is vivid, and the plot will keep you on edge until the end.

You can read more about Reed Farrel Coleman at this web site.

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


ANGELS BURNING by Tawni O’Dell: Book Review

Dove Carnahan (Named after the soap.  Seriously.) has been the chief of police in her rural home town for more than a decade.  It’s a place where the police work usually consists of dealing with domestic violence, DWIs, and minor vandalism.  But a call from a childhood friend brings Dove to Campbell’s Run, a deserted part of town, where she finds the burned body of a teenage girl lying in an abandoned mine pit.

The following day the girl is identified as Camio Truly, one of the members of the dysfunctional Truly clan.  Or should that really be one of the members of the Truly dysfunctional clan?  Camio is one of five children; the oldest brother died after running a red light on his motorcycle while drunk, another died after falling off a railroad trestle while drunk, and a sister is an unmarried sixteen-year-old with an infant.  The youngest brother isn’t quite old enough yet to get into trouble.

Camio was the only one with any ambition or drive in the family.  She received straight As in school and planned to go to college, two things that inspired jealousy and disdain within her family circle.  She also had a boyfriend whom her mother had forbidden to enter their house, probably because he came from the “right side” of the tracks.

There’s no obvious suspect once the boyfriend’s alibi is verified, and there appears to be no motive for any of Camio’s family members.  Dove is working hard on the case, along with the Pennsylvania state police, when she’s sidetracked by two events in her own family.  First there’s the reappearance of one of her mother’s lovers, the man Dove and her sister Neely accused of killing their mother.  He has just been released from jail after thirty-five years, convicted by the sisters’ testimony.

Second is another reappearance, that of Dove’s younger brother Champ.  He left town immediately after he graduated from high school, about ten years after their mother died.   Apart from a yearly post card saying he was okay, neither Dove or Neely has heard from him.  Now he’s back with his nine-year-old son Mason, with no explanation as to where he’s been or what he’s been doing all these years.

Angels Burning is a starkly powerful novel about the ways in which family members can destroy each other.   In addition to a terrific plot, what makes this book so special is the way Tawni O’Dell makes the reader understand why people do these things to each other.  And just when you think a character has no redeeming qualities or perhaps has some unexpected good ones, the author turns things on their head and makes you think differently.  Quite a talent.

You can read more about Tawni O’Dell at this web site.

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