Author: David Freed

Publisher: The Permanent Press

ISBN: 978-1-57962-355-5

This novel is not your classic mystery. The days of Conan Doyle and Christie are long past. The modern reader of mysteries expects more grit, suspense, and thrills mixed in with the classic elements of who-done-its or police procedurals—discovering the perp through possibly multiple crimes and many misdirects. Author Freed has delivered, and it’s a fun read.

Yet the main character, Cordell Logan, an ex-special ops fellow, is more introspective and restrained here, in spite of his action-packed past. His mellowing is helped along by first forgiving an ex-wife, falling in love with her again, and then desiring to remarry in order to participate in his unborn offspring’s future life. That perhaps sounds more like a romantic mystery, but a trip to Lake Tahoe to marry takes a turn for the worse. As the mystery unfolds, Logan is caught between his dark desires for revenge and the precepts of his new Buddhist religion.

The mental anguish between an action hero and Buddhist philosophies—or any moral lessons taken from the world’s great religions—isn’t new. G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown series certainly had some of these elements, although the good Father was probably more akin to a comical Miss Marple or Hercules Poirot than Cordell Logan is. Castilblanco, the principal detective in one of my own series, converted to Buddhism in a recent tale; he suffers some of the same anguish. That is an interesting plot element in itself: how do you reconcile the perceived need to meet violence with violence and more pacifist philosophies?

While mainly a mystery that unfolds without many time constraints, this novel early on contains thriller elements as Logan is forced into impossible deadlines. To avoid any criticism about spoilers, I won’t discuss the reasons, but I will say that this race against the clock was well done too. So, the reader can enjoy both genres, mysteries and thrillers, in one book. Solving the mystery moves a bit slower, but that too is a race as Logan’s meager financial resources begin to run out. Classic writing technique: put your protagonist into some seemingly impossible situations and let him squirm.

So, what about the protagonist’s character? In spite of all the mental anguish, I found him a bit two-dimensional. There is a conflicting mix of devil-may-care attitude about life in general—a hippy-Bond outlook, if you will—mixed with profound depression and hesitation. The mix is shaken, not stirred, but I suppose that many people are truly that conflicted. I found Logan’s landlady and ex-sidekick Buzz to be more likable than Logan. I liked Logan’s cat too. In the denouement, it’s not clear what will happen to him.

I think the author should revisit Mr. Logan in a sequel. I can see this old hippy-like and ex-special forces character growing on me with further development. I’d like to see more of Buzz too.

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