Monday, March 19, 2012

Back On Murder by J. Mark Bertrand


Det. Roland March is a homicide cop on his way out. But when he's the only one at a crime scene to find evidence of a missing female victim, he's given one last chance to prove himself. Before he can crack the case, he's transferred to a new one that has grabbed the spotlight--the disappearance of a famous Houston evangelist's teen daughter.

With the help of a youth pastor with a guilty conscience who navigates the world of church and faith, March is determined to find the missing girls while proving he's still one of Houston's best detectives.


Bertrand has the art of telling a detective story down to a fine art. The first-person present tense, while taking a little to get used to, made me feel like I was following March around on his case.

His characters are finely drawn, each with idiosyncrasies and details that make them feel like real people. Actions are described so precisely that it's easy to picture exactly what's happening. For example:

His top lip clamps down over the bottom, forcing the tuft of hair on his chin to pop out like porcupine quills.

The case is a mind-bender with crazy twists and turns. And, oddly enough for a detective story, there are philosophical bits in there as March ponders his life, his relationships, his work, God...pretty much everything. It fits. It's one of the things I love about the book--March's wonderings often prompt me to think about the same thing, delving deeper into myself and my faith. These are deep question, so much deeper than I normally find in Christian novels.

A few things you might want to think about: for what this book could be, it's surprisingly clean. Still, the nature of March's job is dark. There's descriptions of dead bodies. They discover one of the victims was raped. There are suggestions of sensuality, though everything is tastefully left off-screen. March goes a bar though he doesn't drink. There are mentions of drugs.

This is a prime example of a book that is gritty and true-to-life without dragging in objectionable material.

If you're looking for a great detective story, really, put down the remote. You can't find this on Law & Order or CSI. Back On Murder is where it's at.

Rating: five out of five stars

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