Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Death Roe by Joseph Heywood

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Death Roe by Joseph Heywood. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Death Roe by Joseph Heywood

Death Roe by
A Woods Cop Mystery with Grady Service

Lyons Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59921-428-8 (1599214288)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59921-428-3 (9781599214283)
Publication Date: September 2008
List Price: $24.95

Review: Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Grady Service encounters obstacles at every turn when he investigates a case of illegal mixing of salmon roe by a local processing facility in Death Roe, the sixth mystery in this series by Joseph Heywood.

The case starts with a simple violation of snagging salmon, catching the fish anywhere other than the mouth. But the fisherman wasn't interested in the flesh, only the eggs. Service offers to pull the ticket if the violator tells him what he intended to do with the eggs. A deal struck, Service later witnesses an illegal sale of the eggs and raids the company that purchased them. There he discovers something even more alarming: salmon eggs from New York State, deemed by the FDA to be unfit for human consumption, are being mixed with Michigan eggs and sold as prime roe. But the company, Piscova, is a major political influence in the state and has influential allies in powerful positions. Service quickly discovers that investigating this case will test not only his patience but also his resolve to see justice done.

The unnecessarily lurid (and largely irrelevant) dust jacket cover of Death Roe will likely put some readers off, but don't let it: this is a terrific police procedural. It's not, however, one that can be read quickly; the plot is intricate and complicated, there are dozens of characters working for a seemingly endless stream of government agencies, and there are politics, which Service wryly describes as "a minefield for which few people had an accurate map." The focal point, however, is the engaging Grady Service and everything that happens is told from his perspective.

The book is set up as a journal of sorts, with each chapter noting the current date and location. This helps convey to the reader the passage of time, something that frustrates Service who is anxious to see the case closed. And while no doubt reasonably accurate in real terms, the time issue is a minor problem for the plot. While Service is actively involved, the story moves along at a fairly brisk pace. But when he's ordered off the investigation, and later side-lined from a brutal attack unrelated to the case, the story seems to lose its way. No doubt this pause is intended to illustrate how Service feels about being inactive, but it actually doesn't quite work.

Though the pace picks up again towards the end, the conclusion doesn't quite work either. Service gets the closure he seeks and needs, yet there are several plot threads that aren't resolved and left hanging. Maybe this is intentional as well, but it's somewhat unsatisfactory. Still, Death Roe, dust jacket cover aside, is among of the best of its genre to be published this year.

Special thanks to Globe Pequot Press for providing a copy of Death Roe for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Grady Service finds himself with an unexpectedly complex, truly rotten, and important case on his hands. This time tainted eggs are showing up in caviar and Service must expose a ring of corruption in state government and perhaps within his own beloved DNR, one that could lead him all the way to the top.

Making enemies at every level of the state, Service rousts out the people on the take. Can he get to the source of the contaminated eggs and prove it? Pitting corporate greed against the health of the general public isn’t something Service takes lightly. He doesn’t rest until there has been full exposure in a case that takes him from the wilds of the to the jungles of the state capital, into the maw of the Ukrainian mafia in New York City and onto distant beaches of Central America.

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