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November 8, 2020

3 Books for Fans of Police Procedurals

by MK French

Police procedurals are a subgenre of the detective genre. Instead of having a private investigator or an amateur sleuth, the main character is part of the police force and the story focuses on the procedure of a police investigation. Today I review three books in this subgenre.

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And the Devil Walks Away by Kevin Doyle

And the Devil Walks Away
November 2020; MuseItUp Publishing
ebook (483 pages); police procedural
A serial killer hires a disgraced former police officer to prove that he committed more murders than was previously known. He hopes that doing this will lessen his sentence, but another man is taking is credit for those crimes.

We start out in media res for the prologue, then backtrack when chapter one begins. Helen takes on the job to investigate the truth of the serial killings, as it’s a steady paycheck when she doesn’t have other prospects. The known serial killer Leo Benson is footing the bill, and doesn’t want “his” kills to be claimed by the itinerant Willie Gray. Helen is not a cop and not a private investigator, which ads some hurdles to her way to looking into Gray’s past. It’s a tedious task that Helen was assigned, as it’s all interviews with people and trying to get around their reticence to talk about a killer. She’s outside the law now, and while she asks questions like a cop, she can break and enter the way cops can’t.

Helen has guts, taking the job on behalf of a serial killer because she has a need to know the truth. She faces down police officers, FBI agents, and unsavory characters of all flavors in this journey, even after it leads to physical assault and threats. The investigation crosses state lines in multiple jurisdictions; her past as a police officer gives her insight as to how that works, though that also means she falls into old habits of questioning cops and going where she shouldn’t, then pulling up short because she doesn’t have a badge or PI license. I’m going to chalk it up to old habits as opposed to her being dumb, because Helen’s not dumb at all. She might forget that she’s not part of the brotherhood, but she still acts like she is, and is determined to maintain that code of ethics as best as she can.

I was really drawn into her struggle investigating these cold cases and trying to find the link between the two killers. It’s a fascinating police procedural and investigative thriller.

A Game of Greed and Deception by John Matthews

A Game of Greed and Deception
October 2014; Indie; ebook (146 pages)
police procedural 

Tammy Worthington took her much older husband and ten-year-old stepdaughter on vacation in Colorado for their one year anniversary, and her wealthy husband gets into a car accident as planned. But his body wasn't found in the wreckage, making him a missing person. She's trapped in her mountain cabin while someone is outside and she has to fool state authorities. Is Stephen getting his revenge on her?

En route to the cabin, the reader is subject to a lot of the characters' back story. It's so much telling, I was honestly tempted to just bypass it all and head straight to the death and destruction. Tammy's behavior is stilted from the start, though I also have the benefit of knowing that she's planning to kill Stephen for his money. Even so, her observations and thoughts just reveal that she's shallow and petty, with more interest in money than people. It doesn't make her much of a compelling character at the start of the novel, and it doesn't get any better as the story progresses. Having a diagnosis feels more like a copout than an explanation for how erratic she behaves, and I find it difficult to believe that she could hide this from her husband and stepdaughter for over a year. 

Everyone in this novel has ulterior motives, even the ten-year-old. There are deadly traps, torture devices, hidden rooms, and a labyrinth conveniently located beneath the cabin. The torture and death seemed contrived at times, and Tammy's leaps of logic really didn't work for me. The flashback sequences didn't really help me bond with her or care what happened to her. If anything, I feel closest to Maria and was rooting for her to escape the entire time I was reading. 

I got thrown out of the story with some inconsistencies in the text: Maria is wearing shoes, but puts a bandaid on her foot, a police officer doing a search for prior records has access to sealed juvenile records from another state as well as school records, which normally wouldn't have been computerized, let alone immediately available. Motivation is fairly straightforward, but not how things happen; we get an ending almost like the movie Clue, in that we're shown what police think and what actually happened. Ultimately, the big bads of the story weren't that compelling for me.

Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw

Fire and Vengeance
September 2020; Oceanview Publishing; 978-1608093687
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); police procedural
Chief Detective Koa Kāne of Hilo, Hawai'i discovers that an elementary school was placed on a volcanic vent, which explodes. Others involved in the construction are murdered, and at the same time Koa's brother collapses in jail from a previously undiagnosed brain tumor. Koa tries to help his brother as he unravels a forty-year-old conspiracy, but he may have to choose between them.

Fire and Vengeance is the second book in the Koa Kāne series, but I didn't read the first one. I had no problem getting to know Koa and his family, as they were introduced and some of their story came out in pieces as they talked. The main thrust of the opening quarter of the novel is the destroyed elementary school. It's clear as soon as Koa and his team dig into the fiasco that every official knew, and were perfectly willing to look the other way and simply plug a volcano vent with concrete. Every character other than the politicians are rightfully horrified by this. 

The search through records, which can come across as dry in some novels, is lightened by humor with Koa's team, and the earnestness of those willing to get to the truth, regardless of the political process. The information about Koa's brother is fascinating and brings home the conflict of the novel: doing the right thing, bringing justice to the wronged, and making up for the wrongs of the past. Koa has his own demons that drive him forward, and he brings a very human face to the search for justice among a corrupt government. 

Buy Fire and Vengeance at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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