Last week, I posted about 9/11 and how people remember tragedies. Oddly enough, just after writing that post, I read a book that dealt with similar topics.
Back on Murder is the first in a series by Christian writer J. Mark Bertrand. I mentioned the novel back in August, when I’d only read the first chapter. Now, after finishing it, I have to say that the book was a lot of fun.
It’s not a pretty story—once a celebrity thanks to a high-profile case, homicide detective Roland March has lost a lot of trust, and he’s been forced onto the sideshows. He’s desperate when he happens on an obscure clue in a drug-house murder scene. March hopes that the clue might be his big chance for a comeback, and he’s willing to bend the rules since this appears to be his last chance.
Then March’s murder case is eclipsed by the latest breaking news—a missing girl, whom March pegs as white, popular, and everyone’s perfect daughter, sure to keep the media attention as long as there is a scrap of news left to be wrung out.
March has a hunch, for his own reasons, that the cases might be linked, but no one else believes his theory. And, in the background, March has to deal with his own failings, his wife’s depression, a painful past, the coming 9/11 anniversary, and the way the newest ‘breaking news’ obscures both national tragedies and personal grief. He’s in big trouble before he realizes just how careless he’s been.
All these elements make for a very real world scenario, and one that reads very vividly. While Betrand is a Christian novelist, and a number of church characters show up in Back on Murder, March is agnostic, when he’s not bitter against the world in general. Even the good characters make mistakes and have to start over, while March’s investigation turns up a lot of corruption and desperation in others’ lives as well as in his own.
More important, Back on Murder has a catching plot, and even better writing. Aside from the fairly graphic descriptions of violence, I think this is a book anyone could read. It’s a book I enjoyed enough that I’m planning to look up the sequels.
(Note: Back on Murder is free on Amazon for Kindle readers, which is how I picked up my copy. For other readers, there's also a preview for the first chapter.)