Warn Me When It’s Time – Cheryl Head (Bywater Books)

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Bywater Books

Charlie Mack does it again–or, rather Cheryl Head does. The sixth book of the Charlie Mack police procedural series is of a piece with the other five entries, meaning it’s snappy, engaging, full of action and food, and chock full of local Detroit flavor.

A local hate group has been running rampant, using robberies and arson at many mosques, temples, and Black churches to intimidate Muslims and people of color throughout the metro area. The latest bombing has killed a prominent imam, but his children don’t feel the police are doing all they can to solve the murder. So they hire the Mack Agency to take control and get some answers. When Charlie and her people start digging, however, they find a conspiracy that reaches all the way to the top of local government–and beyond.

The character of Charlie Mack is well enough established in this series that Head feels comfortable and secure enough to let her take a backseat in favor of another character. In this installment, it’s stalwart Don Rutkowski who goes undercover with the aid of the FBI, just as Charlie herself did in Catch Me When I’m Falling. He, however, does not get to be homeless. Instead, he becomes a serial bomber. And Don himself is undergoing some changes in attitude, working on his own prejudices acquired during the World Trade Center disaster in 2011 and his time in the military.

But Charlie doesn’t disappear entirely. There are plenty of glimpses into her home life with partner Mandy and their dog, Hamm. And the ever capable secretary-turned-investigator Judy Novak is back as well, turning her hand to a number of tasks both in and out of the office.

And speaking of characters, Head introduces Robert “Robbie” Barrett, a young computer whiz working for the White Turks hate group, then the FBI, then…who knows? He turns out to be a major factor in the tension here because you never quite know whose side he’s on until the very end. And Head wisely leaves her options open regarding using him again. I’d love to see him return in a future installment.

Warn Me When It’s Time, then, is a solid, well-done entry in the Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series, guaranteed to please old fans and make new ones. Anxiously awaiting the next…


© 2021 Jerry L. Wheeler

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