John Rockne may have made many mistakes in his lifetime – haven’t we all – but it’s one in particular that sticks with him. While a young cop on the Grosse Pointe, Michigan police force he made a judgment call one bitter New Year’s evening, one that ended up costing a young man his life. Unable to face his fellow officers again Rockne walked away from the job, choosing to make his administrative leave permanent.
He didn’t leave Grosse Pointe entirely, however, instead setting up shop as a private investigator. And despite the seriousness of that past mistake Rockne has, for the most part, put it behind him. He has a beautiful wife, two young daughters he worships, and makes a modest living carrying a Nikon instead of a gun.
When a local artist is murdered in her guitar workshop the police write it off as a burglary gone bad. The young woman’s father doesn’t buy it. He’s convinced his daughter’s ex-boyfriend killed her, and hires Rockne to investigate the case further.
Before he knows it Rockne is in the crosshairs of an ex-con, a shadowy assassin, a high profile musician and her P.R. team in full damage control mode, and the Grosse Pointe Chief of Police to boot. Maybe that one more mistake is gonna hurt after all.
Fans of author Dani Amore’s trademark wit and sarcasm – so amply on display in her debut, Death by Sarcasm – will be pleased to know there’s plenty to be had in Dead Wood. Most often it rears its head in the form of Rockne trying to explain his way out of trouble to the two women in his life, his fiery tempered wife and his strong willed and arguably humor challenged older sister…who just happens to also be the Chief of Police.
Which isn’t to say the story is shortchanged at the expense of humor. Far from it. Dead Wood is proof positive that Amore’s strong first outing in Death By Sarcasm was no fluke. Settling into a more reserved presentation this time out, Amore paints a wonderfully detailed picture of the high class Grosse Pointe, often via bittersweet juxtaposition of its wealth with the squalor of the roughest outskirts of Detroit which back right up onto the doorsteps of Grosse Pointe’s rich and powerful.
The mystery is also satisfyingly nuanced. Credible threats and leads confront Rockne at every turn of his investigation, while he himself is a refreshing change of pace from the stereotypical sad sack private investigator who boozes and womanizes his way through the story. Instead, Rockne aims for “fair, honest and reliable,” which nevertheless doesn’t stop him from bending the law ever so slightly in pursuit of the truth. And though what he discovers brings closure to the matter at hand, it rips open that old wound he had thought finally scarred over.
Bad news for Rockne, good news for readers who will no doubt be making reservations for a return to Grosse Pointe as soon as possible.
Dead Wood is available at Amazon.