HOMICIDE: OUR DAY BEGINS WHEN YOUR DAY ENDS.

That’s the slogan one of homicide detective Joe Burgess’ colleagues wears on a T-shirt.

Welcome to the very real, very gritty world of Joe Burgess, a cynical Portland, Maine cop with a soft heart and a tenacious nature that propels him to follow threads and solve his cases.

Burgess is a seasoned detective, coping in this volume with the added pressures of a committed relationship. He yearns for the resiliency of his younger years. “Between the unspeakable things people did to each other and the cases he couldn’t fix, the iron that held him upright and hopeful was rusting.”

But with age comes experience, and Burgess will need all of that and more to solve the murder of Vietnam vet and old high school friend, Reggie the Can Man.

Reggie’s alcoholism and mental problems post-war haven’t stopped Burgess from keeping an eye of Reggie and continually trying to rescue him since their shared days as 19-yr olds in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Reggie has spent decades alternating between appearing fine and then dropping into the dark hole of mental illness, propped up by his brother, Clay, and Burgess. On a perfect autumn Columbus Day, when all Burgess wants is the quiet calm of a picnic, Reggie’s body is found in the water off a pier in downtown Portland, and Burgess’ weekend off is lost.

When the drowning is questioned as deliberate, Burgess steels himself to do this last act of kindness for Reggie–find his murderer and bring him to justice. For Reggie had managed to keep secrets to protect the ones he loved, and it will take all of Burgess’ instincts and people skills to tease out the reason Reggie needed to die.

In the course of his investigation, Burgess will run up against a host of likely suspects, ranging from Reggie’s ex-wife and his wayward son, who also happens to be Burgess’ godson, to corrupt businessmen and a woman who claims to be a witch. She tries to prove it to Burgess in a most unusual way.

Flora gets the Portland area just right, from the lovely countryside and fishy scent of the harbor area, to the unused lot Burgess and his team scour for clues: ” … his nostrils were filled with the smells of crushed grass and weeds, mildew, and the sourness of rotting vegetation. Every season had its scent, and fall’s crisp scents of fresh air and burning leaves were underlain by the odor of death and decay. Like his life.” The people and the setting will jump off the page; the details of the police procedural are done just right, with distinct characters helping Burgess, even if he would sometimes use the word “help” sarcastically.

Her character’s are well-drawn, distinct individuals, but it’s Burgess and her story who will keep you reading for the resolution. Flora’s novels include seven in the Thea Kozak mysteries, a true crime novel and a suspense thriller. Finding Amy was nominated in 2007 for an Edgar and has been filmed for TV. Teaching writing for Grub Street in Boston, Flora has a new true crime project underway revolving around a Canadian serial killer, and is working on a screenplay.

Redemption is the third Joe Burgess novel. Auntie M will be reading the first two.

 

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