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Tuesday, 12 April 2016

‘Goodbye to the Dead’ by Brian Freeman

Published by Quercus,
1 October 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-78206-900-3 (HB)

Duluth, Minnesota, is situated in the far north of the USA, with Lake Superior just beyond the doorsteps of a lot of homes, and plenty of woodland and lush greenery just beyond the city limits. It comes to vivid life in Goodbye to the Dead, and seems like such a calm, pleasant place to live – but Lieutenant Jonathan Stride, who heads up the police department’s detective bureau, sees a different side to his home town.

This is the seventh in Brian Freeman’s series about this sensitive, upright and ultimately human cop, and it left me wanting to seek out the earlier titles – not because there were spoilers (well, maybe a just few hints about earlier episodes), but because a lot appears to go on in Duluth and Freeman tells a good story.

Detective novels are often referred to as a puzzle; this one is a complex jigsaw, set in two time frames, with multiple viewpoints guiding the reader round two story strands which ultimately collide in an explosive finale.

There’s something to suit all reading tastes: murder and the subsequent investigation, a much more modern and far darker criminal underworld, a possible miscarriage of justice and an unlikely champion for the victim, a little bit of courtroom drama. There’s even a smidgen of romance and domestic tragedy.

The plot in brief: ten years ago Janine Snow’s abusive husband was shot dead in the luxurious home, leaving her as the prime suspect – but the gun was never found. In the here and now, the gun turns up, and sends the police on the trail of a something much more grim and far-reaching than domestic murder. By the end, all the carefully placed jigsaw pieces fit together, and the link between the two crimes becomes clear. All that’s left is for Stride to sort out his personal life, and there’s light at the end of even that tunnel.

Jonathan Stride himself is the ultimate good cop, the husband most women can only dream of, compassionate to the extent that he takes a teenage girl off the streets into his own home. Freeman has a sure touch with female characters too: sparky Cindy, Stride’s wife; Janine the ice queen murder suspect, whose smouldering centre quickly emerges; Cat the teenage waif-and-stray; Maggie the diminutive cop who scares the heck out of her male colleagues. All four stayed in my mind long after I reached the end of their story.

If Goodbye to the Dead is typical of the series it belongs to, it’s a series I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to any dyed-in-the-wool crime fiction fan.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Brian Freeman was born in Chicago in 1963 and lived in the Bay Area of California for several years before going to college in Minnesota and settling there with his wife, Marcia. Prior to breaking through in the writing world, he was a respected communication strategist and business writer in the Twin Cities and served as director of marketing and public relations for an international law firm. His books have been sold in 46 countries and 20 languages and have appeared as Main Selections in the Literary Guild and the Book of the Month Club. His debut thriller, Immoral, won the Macavity Award. Immoral was chosen as International Book of the Month by book clubs around the world.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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