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by P.J. Parrish
Our Noir , October 2018
396 pages
ISBN: 1732086745

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Louis Kincaid is back in Michigan, working as part of a Michigan State Police Special Investigations Unit (PSIU) whose sole purpose is to solve cold cases. Mark Steele heads the unit; Mark Steels is the man who ruined Louis's career in Michigan six years ago. Mark Steels hand-picked the members of this unit; each member of the team gets to pick a cold case from the list Mark Steele has chosen. Louis picks a case set in the UP - a long way from Lansing, and a place where Louis will not be able to blend into the woodwork. Two small boys were found buried in a mine almost twenty years ago; they are still unidentified and their killer remains free.

Louis heads up North and begins to pull at the loose ends of the case, of which there are not very many. Just when he feels that he may be making some (albeit minor) progress, he is pulled of his case, as are the other members of the team. The pastor of a mega-church in Grand Rapids has been murdered. The PSIU has been put on the case; the sooner it is solved, the happier everyone will be. Steele is adamant: this is more important than whatever anyone is working on. Nobody is happy. Each person has chosen a case with some deep relevance to that person. Nobody wants to drop what they are doing. Still - there is no I in TEAM or some such thing.

The obvious suspect in the killing of Jonas Prince is his son, Anthony. Anthony, of course, has an alibi. There are a few other suspects, none as viable as Anthony. Everyone in the PSIE starts turning over rocks, tracking down possible witnesses, checking out leads. All of them are familiar and comfortable with the grunt work of police investigations. They also, to one degree or another, keep working their cold cases. Steele is not happy about this until some tenuous connections appear. Even then, Steele wants the focus to be on finding the killer of Jonas Prince, not on connecting cold cases to this murder.

Parrish takes what seems like a straightforward murder case and spreads it out over an awful lot of Michigan countryside. The plots and sub-plots provide enough material for at least another book or two and yet, at the end of DAMAGE DONE, Louis has the answers he was looking for. Not just the hot case, and the cold case, but some long-standing issues and conflicts from his childhood in the social services system are resolved. Those readers who are familiar with Michigan will recognize that Parrish knows this territory and knows it well. From Detroit to Copper Harbor, Lansing to Grand Rapids, Parrish is very comfortable in Michigan. The politics are different in each part of the state, and Parrish gets it right. The weather, and the scenery, are likewise different and again, Parrish gets it. This is a coherent and cohesive book on many levels; a reader won't get lost as Louis works his way around the state and the case. Considering how much story is packed into this book, that's saying a lot.

§ I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, September 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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