Wednesday, December 10, 2014

John Misak’s “Death Knell”

Thinking I had the first volume in John Misak’s John Keegan mystery series, I was about a third of the way into Death Knell when I realized I might have the second. As it turns out, I had the third. My wife will tell you I occasionally miss the details and the fine print.

Ah, well, I now have an excuse to read the first two: Soft Case (which is the first one, originally published in 2001) and All in a Row.

Death Knell starts with a brutal rape and murder. The body of a young woman is found in New York’s Central Park. It’s not John Keegan’s case or even in his precinct’s jurisdiction, but he’s interested, and gets a few details from a friend and detective whose case it is.

The case that is his is a murder – a fringe member of the New York Russian mafia whose body is found in his kitchen, dispatched execution-style. The body is found by his landlady, with a penchant for saying little but helping herself to cash. Neither she nor anyone else regrets his death, and it takes a few visits to the crime scene for Keegan and his partner Rick Calhill for the landlady to divulge everything.

Keegan and Calhill investigate and find themselves edging toward possible police corruption and personal danger. And then they learn the dead man is linked to the rape-murder victim in Central Park. Along the way, they’re trying to deal with their own personal issues, Keegan with family problems and a dead almost-girlfriend, and Calhill with the suicide of his wife.

John Misak
In Keegan, Misak has created a complex character, lifting what might have been a fairly traditional police procedural to a more interesting level. His detective is living a self-examined life, and that self-examination is taking him toward love and toward doing something else with his life. The events in the novel speed that self-examination – and determination – along. The hope is that Keegan will survive what seems to be a number of attempts to end his self-examination permanently.

Death Knell is a good story, with an intelligent, thinking hero, one with a bias for action and not reluctant to be rough when he has to.

Now I have to go back and read the first two Keegan stories.

Photograph of the Manhattan skyline by Bobby Mikul via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.

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