It’s been a year since former NJ cop turned private investigator Jackson Donne was involved in a case that ended with two men dead and Donne pegged by law enforcement as the killer. (Not Even Past) Though on the face of it evidence did seem to indicate Donne was responsible, the reality of the situation was far more complicated.
Unfortunately, Donne is persona non grata with the local police, who hold a serious grudge against him for his actions while a member of their ranks. So, rather than stick around and try to explain Donne decided a change of scenery was in order.
Now, the lifelong Jersey resident finds himself using the name Joe Tennant and working as a handyman in a small town in Vermont, living pretty much off the grid and isolated from all but a few locals. It’s a situation that’s far from ideal, but one Donne has come to accept as the way things need to be.
Trouble seems to have a way of finding Donne, however, and the first hint of it occurs when the owner of the small motel where Donne works is abducted. Donne makes the mistake of indulging his investigator instincts and pokes around the motel, where he comes across information that leads him to believe the abductor wasn’t only after Donne’s boss/friend, but that Donne is a target too.
Unbeknownst to Donne, there’s also trouble brewing back down in Jersey. It seems members of Donne’s old narcotics unit are being knocked off one by one. Concerned Donne is the one doing it, one of the remaining members of the unit hires private investigator Matt Herrick to track down Donne. Things take an unexpected turn when, shortly after he’s hired, Herrick finds himself the target of a seriously disturbed individual seemingly bent on tearing down Herrick’s life brick by brick… unless he finds Donne and turns him over.
And with that, An Empty Hell, the latest installment in the Jackson Donne series from Derringer Award-winning author Dave White, is off and running.
Himself a Jersey native, White has in the past steeped the Donne series in all things Jersey, from intricate details about the locale to making use of the state’s notoriously corrupt political system. An Empty Hell finds both Donne and White stepping outside of Jersey a bit, and it’s a welcome change of pace. Placing Donne in an environment foreign to him forces Donne to operate in a way that’s unfamiliar and uncomfortable, and leads to Donne doing things he might not otherwise, and that arguably aren’t the wisest course of action. That makes for hard times for Donne, but good reading for readers.
The addition of Herrick to the mix also ups the dramatic stakes. Just as Donne carries around the burden of his past and the mistakes he made and bridges he burned, both of which lead to people whom Donne cared about dying, Herrick is also wrestling with serious demons. Ex-military, Herrick was put in a position while serving in Afghanistan that forced him to commit an act that relentlessly haunts him…and that made him vow to never again carry a gun.
Together, Donne and Herrick make for two very flawed, yet immensely compelling characters—men living in their own personal hells on earth, both one small step away from having nothing left to lose. When their paths finally cross in An Empty Hell, the fireworks are a given. The only thing left to sort out is who’ll be left standing once the smoke clears.
An Empty Hell is available from Polis Books (ISBN: 978-1940610665).