Author: Dennis Koller

Publisher: Pen Books (February 26, 2014)

ISBN: 0692656731


It wasn’t so long ago that I reviewed Dennis Koller’s  second Tom McGuire mystery, The Custer Conspiracy. In my review, I said I’d like to spend more time with the San Francisco homicide inspector. Dennis took note. He sent me a copy of ”Mac” McGuire’s first  adventure, The Oath.

In many ways, The Oath is a far less complex, less layered thriller than The Custer Conspiracy.  Which isn’t to say the first McGuire story is in any way less satisfying. Rather, it’s more focused following two parallel plot lines with far fewer characters.

One plot has Giants fan McGuire investigating the murder of Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Ruth Wasserman.    The writer had visited Vietnam during the 1960s where, as a member of the small radical group Women Against Imperialistic War,   Wasserman and three of her friends interviewed American POWs where the women railed against the prisoners being participants of what her group felt was an immoral military action.

While it takes some time for us to learn his identity, we discover her killer was one of those POWS in the infamous Hanoi Hilton where captured Americans were brutally tortured.   We learn he is dying of cancer and is out to kill all the living members of the Women Against Imperialistic War and their financial backer who happens to be the Governor of California. Another ex-POW who was imprisoned in the Hanoi Hilton is police officer Tom McGuire who begins putting the puzzle together while spending considerable time with one alluring witness, Michele Sullivan.

So two very different views are juxtaposed throughout the story—the rage of one ex-POW who wants revenge for the wrongs he felt he suffered due to the intellectual stances of the war protestors and the perspectives of the women he captures who see the Vietnam era as long ago and far away. As it happens, the killer knows McGuire and sends him the evidence of his crimes feeling a fellow ex-POW would understand and sympathize with his motives.

Woven into these storylines are the reactions of the governor who wants more than his radical past suppressed     and the unhappiness of McGuire’s boss because the detective didn’t follow established protocols. And the very sexual romance of McGuire and Sullivan fills as many pages as the first person narrative of McGuire revealing much about his character alternating with the third person account of the killer’s actions and his justifications of his interpretation of the oath he swore to when he joined the military.  

While the book is now three years old,   it will be fresh and new to all readers who haven’t yet met the very personable Tom McGuire. If you like mysteries, this yarn easily fits the bill. If you like hot romances, Tom and Michelle will give you very warm summer nights. Then, if you haven’t experienced The Custer Conspiracy, you may feel a desire to dive into that very novel thriller. Then, we can all await Tom McGuire book number three.