The last time readers saw New Jersey-based ex-cop turned private investigator Jackson Donne (The Evil That Men Do) things were decidedly rocky, serious problems with both his family and his profession having reared their heads.
Now, three years later, Donne has turned the corner. He’s deep into the process of earning his degree, having gone back to college after being forced to leave the private investigation business, and is engaged with a wedding date looming. Things are going well.
Until Donne gets an email that completely blindsides him, turning life as he knows it forever upside down.
At first it appears to be some weird spam with a click-bait subject: Click and watch. Her life depends on it. Normally, Donne would know better than to click on links in strange emails, but the email also contains an eight-year-old photo of him graduating from the police academy—there is some level of personalization there.
Against his better judgment, Donne follows the link, which leads him to an ominous video of a woman bathed in spotlights bound to a chair in an empty room, battered and screaming for her life. It’s a sight that would be disturbing enough on its own, but what makes the hair on the back of Donne’s neck stand up is that he knows the woman…and had thought for the past six years she was dead.
And it’s not just any woman, but Donne’s former fiancée, Jeanne Baker. Problem is, she was officially declared dead following a fiery car accident six years ago, her identity having been conclusively established through DNA testing. That, plus his inability to get the video to replay, causes Donne to hit a brick wall when he tries to get the FBI involved, and the local police still hold a serious grudge against him for his actions while a member of their ranks—they aren’t going out on a limb over a legally dead woman on nothing more than Donne’s say-so.
The only person Donne can enlist to help, Detective Bill Martin, Donne’s ex-partner, comes with baggage of his own; he, too, had a thing with Baker and resents Donne with a passion on numerous levels. Still, he loved Baker as much as Donne did, and together they form an uneasy alliance to try and get to the bottom of the video and rescue Baker. But as creepy and weird as the email and video seem to be on the surface, it turns out there are sinister things afoot that run far deeper and wider than either of them could ever possibly have expected.
Not Even Past, the third entry in the Jackson Donne series, finds Derringer Award-winning author Dave White on top of his game and going strong. A New Jersey native himself, White weaves local flavor into the story in a way that brings the setting to life, and has cleverly taken advantage of the all too real word of corrupt New Jersey politics to raise the stakes beyond that of merely a missing person. In White’s skilled hands, strands as far flung as the New Jersey university system, Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, and a just plain power-hungry politician get woven together to form a dastardly web in which Donne and Martin find themselves entangled.
Structured in three sections, each of which takes its name from an event/slogan in recent New Jersey politicking, Not Even Past begins with a tremendous jolt of adrenaline, downshifts to an incredibly slow burn during which the tension becomes almost unbearable given the situation Donne finds himself in, then ratchets the action back up for a breakneck finish.
Make no mistake about it, both Donne and White are back in a big way, and the ending of Not Even Past opens the door to an intriguing shift in the tone of the series in coming books (An Empty Hell—Polis—February 2016).
Not Even Past is available from Polis Books (ISBN: 978-1940610368).