“You started out this morning in the morgue, and you ended with a room full of people who are getting ready to take the big dirt nap. If you work homicide, it doesn’t get any more fun than that.” — Terry Biggs
As much as Detective Mike Lomax really doesn’t want to undergo his prostate exam, finding himself in the middle of an active shooter situation is not the way he’d have preferred to get out of it. Yet, in perhaps the ultimate case of being in the wrong place at the right time, Lomax springs from the exam table and responds, complete with ass hanging out of a flimsy exam gown, to the unmistakable sound of shotgun fire in the medical office complex where his doctor is located.
He arrives just in time to witness the shooter kill himself while standing over the body of the doctor he’s gunned down. Investigation reveals the shooter, Cal Bernstein, was terminally ill with a brain tumor, and though there was no connection between him and his victim, a fertility doctor, it still seems like an open and shut case.
That is until a sharp medical examiner brings another case to the attention of Lomax and his partner, Terry Biggs. What first seemed like an unfortunate car vs. pedestrian accident, the pedestrian having been both intoxicated and in the street at night, needs a second look when the medical examiner finds a wound inconsistent with the trauma one would expect from the impact of a vehicle. Things takes a turn for the decidedly sinister when Lomax and Biggs learn the driver in that accident is also terminally ill, with stage IV lung cancer, and that he and Bernstein attended the same support group.
The harder Lomax and Biggs tug on the strings surrounding the cases, the bigger the puzzle that starts to unravel. Though it seems clear someone is hiring terminally ill people to commit acts of murder in exchange for a huge payment to their families, who is doing the hiring, and why, is the real mystery.
Terminal, the long awaited fifth entry in Marshall Karp’s Lomax and Biggs series, finds the LA detectives back better than ever. Biggs’s non-stop humor is in full effect, his trademark wry observations and one-liners used, as always, as his way of communicating truths and emotion he finds a bit too hard to deliver straight-up. Not that he’s incapable of going toe-to-toe with someone when needed, be it the deputy mayor meddling in their investigation for political reasons or their Paleo diet obsessed lieutenant, who removes the candy machine, and Biggs’s beloved Skittles, from the break room.
For his part, Lomax is dealing with multiple issues on the personal front while trying to still give the investigation its due. He and his girlfriend have their hands full taking care of the precocious eight-year-old daughter of a friend who has traveled back to China to be with her dying mother. It’s a situation that’s particularly poignant for Lomax, as he and his deceased wife were never able to have a child of their own. Complicating matters, it turns out that prostate exam was the least of his medical worries, his doctor having found some alarming results in Lomax’s blood work.
As the story unfolds, Karp keeps all the plates spinning and balls in the air, seamlessly weaving the personal events into the professional in a way that raises the stakes of the investigation beyond merely solving a series of crimes. It all makes for a wonderfully welcome return of Lomax and Biggs. And while I certainly don’t begrudge Karp for pursuing the highly successful New York Times bestselling NYPD Red series he co-authors with James Patterson, I do selfishly hope it’s not a another six years before we get to visit with Lomax and Biggs again.
You don’t have to have read the previous Lomax and Biggs mysteries to enjoy Terminal, though I highly recommend the whole series, especially The Rabbit Factory, a deliciously wicked sendup of a Disneyesque theme park plagued by a series of killings. So whether you’ve been along for the ride with Lomax and Biggs from the beginning or are new to the game, watch the excellent trailer for Terminal below then go grab a copy.
Terminal is available from Mesa Films (ISBN: 978-1523821006).
– Terminal by Marshall Karp –