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by David Housewright
St Martin's Minotaur, May 2004
277 pages
ISBN: 031232149X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Rushmore McKenzie used to be a cop in St. Paul, Minnesota. Then he had a windfall. He found an fleeing embezzler, turned him in, and the company and their insurer gave him fifty cents on the dollar to not reveal how much money had actually been taken. Now he lives very comfortably and need not work at all, but he seems to be a junkie for violence and he likes to help people out.

Richard and Molly Carlson have a nine-year-old daughter, Stacy, who is dying of leukemia. A bone marrow transplant could save her, but neither of her parents is compatible. They need to find another member of the family and that would be their daughter Jamie who left home seven years before, right after her high school graduation, and has never been in contact since. What they want McKenzie to do is find Jamie and persuade her to be tested for compatibility.

This turns out to be more of a task than McKenzie had ever imagined. Lots of people die in the course of his quest and he kills some of them himself. That seems to be his automatic reaction to being challenged; whip out his gun and shoot. He narrates the book and is a most interesting person. He is capable of great violence and yet is very remorseful after it has happened. He absorbs a great deal of pain but somehow manages to keep moving towards a solution to his problems.

His character is well done; the others are more two-dimensional. The women are beautiful and seductive; the men rich and powerful unless they are gang members and then they are vicious.

The events are exciting enough and I did care what happened to Jamie and little Stacy. But the tone of the books seems to be a little flat. McKenzie tends to deal with emotional situations by wise-cracking (as do so many tough men in mysteries) and perhaps that ratcheted down the tension a bit.

The plot twists and turns but ultimately the bad guys are fairly obvious. The only question is which of the bad guys actually did mayhem and murder. The answer surprised me. There are some other surprises in the denouement but it bothered me that while a woman was in jeopardy the good guys stopped long enough to tell each other what had happened so that the reader was kept up to date. I kept want to nudge them and remind them of the danger.

I enjoyed the setting, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. I think regional mysteries are fascinating if the place is made real enough, and it is in this book. I could follow McKenzie around, and I am familiar with many of the places where events took place.

All told I enjoyed reading this book but my feeling was that there was something missing. This was a good book that could have been a better book.

Reviewed by Sally Fellows, May 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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