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“Back on Murder”

I’ve always enjoyed reading mysteries with well-rounded characterizations and themes that go deeper than the simple “Whodunnit?” questions.  For instance, James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux stories are memorable not only for Burke’s  inimitable voice but also for the eternal questions that he raises in stories that are ostensibly just about murders on a Louisiana bayou.

J. Mark Bertrand’s Back on Murder is set on the Gulf Coast, too, but on the humid streets of Houston.  Although Back on Murder has a very different flavor from Burke’s books, it’s similar in its way of delving into deep questions through the travails of a set of interesting characters.

After a long exile in the dead-end assignment of investigating cops’ suicides, an officer named Roland March has one last chance to prove himself on the murder squad.  Back on Murder is a gritty tale that includes druggies, innocent victims, and good and bad cops, but it’s also a wise and powerful story.  If the ugliness of murder may be eclipsed by the possibility of forgiveness, there’s hope for all of us.

Bertrand knows how to handle the English language.  His straightforward style is a good match for this police procedural.

The publisher (Bethany House) did provide me with a free copy of the book but didn’t pressure me to give a favorable review.  I loved the book.  Once in a great while, I read a murder mystery that I’ll want to read again, just to savor the writing.  Back on Murder is one of those gems.

It’s getting good reviews on Amazon, too, including one from me.

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