Monday, January 25, 2010

Mystery Book Review: Racing the Devil by E. Michael Terrell

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Racing the Devil by E. Michael Terrell. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Racing the Devil by E. Michael Terrell

A Jared McKean Mystery

Night Shadows Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-9799167-6-3 (0979916763)
ISBN-13: 978-0-9799167-6-2 (9780979916762)
Publication Date: October 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: E. Michael Terrell introduces a complex ... and conflicted ... private investigator who finds himself framed for a murder he most certainly did not commit in Racing the Devil.

Nashville PI Jared McKean is a family man without a family. Or so he thinks. He still loves his ex-wife and adores their son, Paulie, who has Down Syndrome. He lives on a horse farm with his gay best friend, who has AIDS, but is afraid to show how much their friendship means to him. He's close to his brother and his family, yet doesn't seem to know them at all. And he's open to one night stands with a pretty woman. It's the morning after one of these anonymous assignations that he sees his name on the morning news -- wanted for the murder of a woman. Except he doesn't know the dead woman. The police have evidence that strongly suggests otherwise, including DNA samples, fingerprints, and a voice mail message from McKean to the woman. He knows he's being framed, but isn't sure if he is the target and the woman was random, or if she was the target and he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Racing the Devil is an ambitious mystery but one that almost seems at odds with itself. Consider the central character, Jared McKean. It's not enough that he has a laundry list of personal issues to deal with; he's also investigating his own involvement (or lack thereof) in a murder. While he's an interesting character, and one definitely worth learning more about, there's an overabundance of information for the reader here that could have -- and probably should have -- been revealed over the course of two or three books. The murder mystery plot itself tends to be overly and unnecessarily convoluted, not necessarily a critical flaw, but is compounded by the fact that it is also exceptionally depressing. Crime is never a cheerful event, but the crimes in Racing the Devil are particularly disturbing. Again, not a critical flaw in and of itself, but the crimes seem to be used in a contrived, manipulative manner to influence the character of McKean -- and by extension the reader -- at the end of the book.

Definitely not a run-of-the-mill mystery, Racing the Devil requires some patience on the part of the reader. It's a solidly plotted book with well-drawn characters, but troubling nonetheless.

Special thanks to Night Shadows Press for providing an ARC of Racing the Devil for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Nashville Private Investigator Jared McKean has a son with Down Syndrome, a best friend with AIDS, an ex-wife he can't seem to fall out of love with, and a weakness for women in jeopardy -- until one frames him for murder. His DNA and fingerprints are found at the murder scene. His voice is on the victim's answering machine. A man of his height and build was seen leaving the scene of the crime, and the victim was killed by a bullet from his gun. To further complicate matters, his teen-age nephew has just come out of the closet and run away to join a dangerous fringe of the Goth subculture. Now Jared must find a way to hold his family together, clear his name, and solve a case that could cost him his life.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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