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Friday 23 September 2016

‘Death Deserved’ by L.J. Sellers

Published by Thomas & Mercer,
19 July 2016.
ISBN: 978-1503936843

Detective Wade Jackson is a senior detective in the police department at Eugene, Oregon, and, at the start of the book, he has a lot going on in his personal life: he is still working on rebuilding his relationship with his fifteen-year-old daughter, Katie, who went off the rails after her mother's violent death; he has recently adopted Bengie, an orphaned toddler who bonded with him after Jackson discovered Bengie at the scene of his mother's murder; and he is trying to sort out a new house to share with his partner, Kera, and Micah, the young grandson that she has looked after since Micah's parents' death. Added to all this, he has to deal with a lawsuit against him and has concerns about his health. The last thing Jackson needs is to walk into work one morning and be told by the Chief of Police that he has to take charge of the Violent Crimes Unit as well as working his own job, but when this happens he has no choice but to agree.

Denise Lammers is Jackson's sergeant, the officer in charge of the Violent Crimes Unit, and Jackson and his team are shocked to hear that she is in ICU, desperately ill, apparently having been poisoned. All that the doctors can say is that it appears to be an environmental poison but there is no indication whether Lammers was poisoned by accident or whether it is attempted murder. A cop who has been on the job as long as Lammers has, inevitably made a lot of enemies, and the police have to assume the poisoning was deliberate and that Lammers was targeted.

Jackson hopes for a lull in violent crime while he investigates Lammers' poisoning and juggles his dual role but within minutes he is summoned to a double shooting, one male victim dead and a woman seriously wounded. The state of Oregon has recently legalised marijuana and the two victims were shot at a small, legal, pot growing farm. The possible motives for the shooting are many and varied: a disgruntled neighbour, angry at the smell coming from the farm; or a rival pot grower trying to remove the opposition; alternatively a rival trying to force a take-over of the farm; on the other hand it could be the work of activists opposed to the legalisation of the drug. Jackson also realises that the location could be irrelevant and the reason for the shootings could lie in the victims' personal lives.

The case grows more complicated when it is proved that the female victim has a false ID and she disappears from the hospital. Also Lara Evans, one of Jackson's team, discovers more about Sergeant Lammers' personal life than she or Jackson wish to know and they have to decide whether to conceal this from the Chief of Police. Another death occurs and another person gets sick with the same symptoms as Lammers, and this time the poisoning victim is a child. The links between the two cases grow stronger and, as the ugly fear of product tampering proves ever more probable. Jackson and his team have to work quickly before more people die.
Death Deserved is the eleventh book in the Detective Jackson series but the author introduces the characters and situation with such skill that it works very well as a stand-alone novel. Jackson and his team are all far from perfect but they are decent, likeable people who are doing a tough job to the best of their ability. The author has built a community of characters with whom it is easy to empathise and the plot is intricate and cleverly woven together. An excellent book from an author who never fails to deliver stories with strong characters and thought-provoking situations.
Reviewer:  Carol Westron

L J Sellers writes the bestselling Detective Jackson mystery/thriller series, a Readers Favorite award winner, as well as provocative standalone thrillers. Her novels have been highly praised by Mystery Scene, Crimespree, and RT Reviews, and her Jackson books are Kindle bestsellers as well as top-ranked novels. L.J., who resides in Eugene, Oregon where her novels are set, is also an award-winning journalist who earned the Grand Neal. When not plotting murders, she enjoys standup comedy, cycling, social networking, and attending mystery conferences. She’s also been known to jump out of airplanes.

Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats is the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book The Fragility of Poppies was published 10 June 2016.

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