Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand

Lars has already reviewed Mark Bertrand’s detective novel, Back on Murder, so it may already be on your To-Read list. I finished it Friday and loved it. At the start of the novel, Roland March is “a suicide cop,” the officer in the homicide department who does the legwork no one wants to do after a fellow officer kills himself. Though March made a name for himself years ago and had the respect of whole department, his one famous case killed a part of him and has been dragging him down ever since. When a house full of gang members is found shot up, March notices a detail that sticks with him, irritating him into taking risks that only further distance him his teammates. But will those risks pay off?

Layer onto the murder case the disappearance of a beautiful blond teenager, one who looks like the other good-looking teenagers you’ve seen on national news, but this one is the daughter of godly widow, a pillar of her Houston mega-church. Is it possible the two are related, or is March just hoping for another high-profile case to put his career back on track?

The novel’s title sums up the detective’s ambition, that is, to be fully restored in the Homicide department, no longer a burn-out and convenient scapegoat for odd police jobs. He wants respect. He wants to be trusted as the lead on another murder case, not just suicide clean-up work.

As the story develops, we see the great pain March carries and shares with his wife, Charlotte. He’s continually dropping hints about it, and the narrative gradually reveals without telling too much. It’s impressive really. Bertrand has a strong novel here, and I look forward to the next two. March definitely has staying power.

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