Merrimon Book Reviews

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Random Victim
Random Victim
by Michael A. Black

Police thriller with flawed cop and woman bodybuilder newbie.
Michael A. Black's police profession gives his thriller Random Victim a level of authentic detail about both police work and Cook County, Illinois while at the same time, his fictional imagination makes Random Victim a thrilling police procedural. Michael A. Black creates a wonderful combination of characters with the impertinent, unconventional yet honorable policeman Frank and his bodybuilding tough yet feminine policewoman partner Olivia. The case itself intrigues as each clue unravels more and more interconnections between some of the most unlikely partners in crime.

Sergeant Frank Leal just doesn't have the best reputation on the police force, not after the Dark Gable Incident with a judge. He's lucky to still have a job! Healing from a past incident, Frank is a bit surprised when the Cook County Sheriff enlists him for a task force to investigate the unsolvable case of Miriam Walker's murder. With the sheriff election and a challenge to the incumbent, the pressure is on to solve this and fast. Frank knows there is going to be a problem when Lt. Brice is appointed to head up the task force. Leal and Brice have history of butting heads. Joe Smith and Tom Ryan are known as screw ups. Then there is Olivia Hart, a female bodybuilder. She may have a body like steel that will match any man, but she has no experience. Brice wants the investigation to go one way, but Leal's instincts tell him to go another way. In public, the pressure is on to solve this murder but when it comes right down to it, Frank and Olivia seem to be the only people actually determined to catch the culprit. Can Frank and Olivia fly under the radar, get the case solved and not get themselves fired or killed in the process? Can they unravel all the intricate threads surrounding this case?

Random Victim, with its coarse dialogue and imagery, almost reads a bit like a hard-boiled crime novel. Some of the more unfavorable police characters make racially and sexually offensive comments. Although known for the equally explosive Dark Gable incident, Frank stands out as a contrast to these officers, a policeman a cut above the other officers in his treatment of others. Frank is devoted to his job and has a sense of honor. In his relationship with his partner Olivia, he treats her as an equal and a woman. Olivia is a most intriguing character -- she is a body builder with a muscular body that won't quit, and yet Michael A. Black writes her with a very nice touch of femininity, one recognized by her partner. Frank's romance with Sharon Devain adds another dimension to Frank's character, reinforcing and distinguishing the two women in his life. Together, the reader feels the sense of family between Frank, his partner and Sharon. A wonderful extra touch to this thriller!

As a policeman in Chicago for 29 years, Michael A. Black's past adds detailed nuances to this police procedural. His narrative style has a wonderful mixture of streetwise coarseness mixed with moments of emotion, honor and even tenderness. As a police thriller, Michael A. Black's Random Victim has all the loved twists and turns as Frank and Olivia get closer to the truth despite all attempts to derail their hunt. Coarse at times, with moments of irreverence, Michael A. Black also shines in his portrayal of the relationships between his characters from moments of tenderness to moments of chilling suspense. Michael A. Black maximizes the reading thrills with intriguing threads, rippling out from this one murder into the lives of others and their relationships right to the shocking end. Police procedural thriller lovers will be happy to know that Random Victim is the first of a series starring Frank Leal and Olivia Hart!

Publisher: Leisure (April 2008)

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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