My Review of
J. Mark Bertrand's
Back on Murder
From the cover:
Houston homicide detective Roland March was once one of the best. Now he's disillusioned, cynical, and on his way out. His superiors farm him out on a variety of punishment details . . . until an unexpected break gives March one last chance to sve his career. And his humanity.
All he has to do? find the missing teenage daughter of a Houston evangelist that every cop in town is already looking for. But March has an inside track, a multiple murder nobody else thinks is connected. battling a new partner, and old nemesis, and the demons of his past, getting to the truth could cost March everything. Even his life.
Wow. Gritty. Realistic.
Roland March is desperate to get back on Murder duty. Weaseling his way into a murder scene, he's ignored and forgotten, but the only one to find the evidence that a girl was held kidnapped in the house. Rabid for his old job, he does all but beg to be placed on this case.
In the midst of is work problems, March is dealing with his own personal demons: the vehicular homicide of his daughter, the apparent distance between he and his wife, the friction from his one-time work partner, and the dope-using, partying renter that lives above his garage. His wife’s dissatisfied with him, with how he handles—or won’t handle—their renter, and he can’t come to terms with his daughter’s death.
His theories are varied, but his motive is right. Especially if it means bringing down those who should be standing shoulder to shoulder with him. Even if it means putting a young man in deathly danger, the youth leader who encouraged Hannah to reach out to her needy peers. The young man wo offers his help because of his guilt.
The novel takes us on a twisting journey, one that I imagine many a cop travels. If at times, March comes across as a too-needy person, well, his persistence makes up for it. I would have liked to have seen a touch more faith in the book. I particularly hated it when March judged himself as rat-like and also when he cast an eye at his temporary partner Cavallo. I thought it lessened his likeableness.
That’s real life, I’m sure. I saw little or no evidence that March was a Christian, and though there seemed to be an improvement in he and his wife’s relationship, he didn’t grow spiritually or even give a hint that he might at some time or another.
But the other facets of the novel far outweighed those details. It’s a realistic story that held my attention. A book that could hold its own with any crime secular novel.
The characters were real; to me, March's personality and actions made me love and hate him. I sympathized with his wife and her needs. I liked Cavallo and her dedication. I despised March's work buddies, yet understood their hardness and lack of concern for March.
Because the characters were great, the setting was realistic. You traveled the crime journey that March traveled. You saw the scenes as he did.
I’ll be looking forward to Bertrand’s next novel. Thanks, Mark, for bringing to the inspirational world a book that is exceptional!