Death’s Echoes – Penny Mickelbury (Bywater Books)

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Being the chronologically-obsessed, anally-retentive kinda guy I am, I hate exploring a new series from the middle. I’d rather work from the beginning out, but sometimes that isn’t possible and I have to start with the volume at hand. So, I’m new to Penny Mickelbury’s Gianna Maglione/Mimi Patterson mystery series, but if this entry is representative, it’s definitely worth exploring.

Five Muslim women are gunned down as they are heading to worship at a Washington D.C. mosque, one of them being a D.C. cop. This horrible incident brings in Gianna Maglione, head of the Hate Crimes Unit and a friend to the slain cop. Along for the bumpy ride is Maglione’s partner, Mimi Patterson, lead investigative reporter for one of D.C.’s top newspapers. Together, they face not only the aftermath of their friend’s death but a sex-trafficking case as well as the possibility of dirty cops infiltrating and terrorizing an apartment complex full of vulnerable women.

This is a lot of plot, but Mickelbury starts the book off with some strong action as we see the Muslim women murdered by a bunch of Trump supporters (more on that later) and a lot of shock and grief from the dead cop’s friends and allies. The apprehension of the murderers left me wondering where things were going, but as soon as she solves that case, Mickelbury smoothly lays the groundwork for the two unrelated cases that form the meat of the book. Considering Maglione and her Hate Crimes Unit are working on two cases simultaneously, and Patterson has her own set of problems, you’d think there are a lot of loose ends that need to be tied up in the space of less than 250 pages. You’d be right. But Mickelbury manages to do so, plus nearly getting Maglione killed right after the cases are (mostly) solved. That, in particular, was a nice touch. Just when you think the action is over–BAM. We have yet another hospital vigil to sit.

Although the plot flowed well and everything unfolded nicely, I felt confused by some of the choices both Maglione and Patterson made, but I suspect that’s the fault of my coming into the middle of the series. Yes, this book can stand alone plot-wise, but as the author, you can only set up so much before you have to expect the reader to bring in something from the previous books. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that information. However, I was able to glean most of it from context.

Death’s Echoes, then, is a rip-snorter of a procedural that hits the ground running and doesn’t let up. It’s a finely-wrought package sure to please current fans of the series and bring new ones into the fold.

JW

© 2018 Jerry L. Wheeler

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