Carrying some of the baggage from his prior novel, Crooked Numbers, OíMaraís protagonist Ray Donne--ex-cop and current middle school teacher--is thrust into the middle of a murder when friend Ricky Torres, an
Iraq war vet/cab driver in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is gunned down. Scattershot in his cab by a man bearing an automatic weapon, Ricky has not had time to explain to Ray why he wanted to meet, mentioning only that he has made a terrible mistake. Lucky to have escaped with minor injuries, Ray is stunned and confused, unable to fathom what just happened. Friends since their days on the force, Ray is determined to get to the bottom of his friendís violent death.
Patched up at the hospital, a concussed Ray is quickly released to his uncle, Chief of Detectives Raymond Donne. Rayís uncle has long wanted him to return to the force since an accident that damaged the younger manís knees, but Ray has taken another career path, finding satisfaction in working with young people in middle school. Nonetheless, Ray doesnít seem able to resist dabbling in his former profession, even more inclined after the murder of Ricky Torres.
Approached by another ex-cop, PI Jack Knight, Donne agrees to a conversation, though he doesnít much like the man. Ray learns that Ricky T. was working part-time for Knight, serving papers and assisting with a current investigation into the kidnapping of sixteen-year-old Angela Golden, daughter of a powerful PR millionaire. Donne temporarily steps into Rickyís role with Knight, hoping he can learn more about the murder working with the PI
as the two of them continue the search for Angela. Ray decides to use the two weeks between Rickyís death and the start of school to collaborate with Knight, who has his eye on the hefty reward for Angelaís return.
The conflict between past and present, his career as a teacher and natural affinity for police work, sets the emotional tone of the story. Rayís ties to Ricky
and his loyalty to friends fuel his need to understand what happened, to help the dead manís family find peace with the tragedy. As new leads provide even more questions than answers, Ray is focused on learning what circumstances led Ricky so far from the life he wanted. Rayís personal relationships are complicated as well, especially his romance with
a beautiful woman who is also a reporter, adding tension to the investigation and the relationship, exacerbated by Rayís inability to make a commitment.
Somehow Ray and Knight are always a step ahead of law enforcement, examining murder scenes before the cops arrive, trying to keep their stories straight to stay out of trouble with the authorities, maintaining a low profile. There arenít too many surprises here once the plot line begins to fall into place. Much as I enjoyed
Crooked Numbers, Dead Red is a harder sell, though packed with action from the first page. The author throws in an assortment of characters, some from former novels
as well as Donneís past history. An abundance of dialog often takes the place of
character development, a technique that grows tedious when the conversations are
less than stellar (boring). Donneís involvement in crime-solving every two weeks
before school begins has become predictable. A likeable character, with
interesting family ties, a new career for Ray Donne might offer more options and