Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Ex-Detective Writes Terrific Crime Fiction, in THE MURDER BOOK by Lissa Marie Redmond

"A gritty dark edge that sparkles with a hint of possible redemption."
The cover's simple, even basic, but Lissa Marie Redmond's second Cold Case Investigation is traveling with blurbs from Reed Farrel Coleman and SJ Rozan. Make room on the shelf next to Karen Slaughter and Julia Spencer-Fleming and Julia Keller, too; this is a great new voice in crime fiction. I was hooked within the first chapter of THE MURDER BOOK.

Detective Lauren Riley, working late in the deserted police station on a cold case, sees just enough of the boots stamping her after someone's stabbed her: She knows the person who just attacked and left her for dead must work for the city of Buffalo, NY, probably as a detective or police officer. And it's got to be a man, from the force of the attack.

From here, she's mostly isolated in tracking down the would-be killer, because after all, who can she trust? But like Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme, she's got an unusual home situation -- and maybe two people on the force that can't have been the attacker. One is her partner Shane Reese, rock-solid reliable except when he's out "dating." An added problem: As a long-time cop, Lauren has old enemies who could come out of the woodwork. In fact, while she's laid up in the hospital from the stabbing, one of them does just that:
Lauren dropped the card on the floor and looked around. "When did these [flowers] get here?" Lauren demanded. Shooting her good arm out, she slapped her palm to the wall to steady herself. ...

Both Anna and Juan came around the nurses' station at the sudden change in her demeanor. "What? What's wrong?" Anna asked as Juan grabbed her on her good side and held her up, easing her to the station desk.

"Did you see who left these?" Lauren had Anna by the front of her scrubs with one hand.

"It was a kid," Anna told her, gently trying to break her grip. "I thought he might be one of your daughters' boyfriends ... He wanted to see you, but he wasn't on the list."
The card said "Get better soon" and was signed "David Spencer XOXO." And that's terrifying, because Lauren knows -- but hasn't much she can do about it -- that Spencer is a remorseless double murdered who's realized she knows he's guilty. And won't stand trial.

That means there are two forces threatening Lauren's safety: whoever wanted and took the "Murder Book" of notes on the cold cases, leaving her for dead; and Spencer, the frighteningly capable force of her own past.

When Lauren and her partner recruit a retired detective who used to take action against organized crime, they step across a couple of notable lines: They're outside approved channels; they'd tackling serious mob presence; and like it or not, they're waking Lauren's inner demons, the residue of the violence she's not only seen but experienced.

A pulse-racing pace, well-chosen details of Buffalo's mixed industrial landscape, and characters to bleed for make this a stunningly good second book. (Guess who's put the precursor, A Cold Day, onto her TBR list?) Moreover, Redmond's career with the city of Buffalo as both a police officer and detective provides extra assurance of underlying reality, along with a gritty dark edge that sparkles with a hint of possible redemption.

Highly recommended, and new this month from Midnight Ink.

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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