Novel Reviews and Commentary

I hope to post some reviews of novels I have read that have inspired me, or just been great!

J. Mark Bertrand’s Back on Murder was an amazing police prodedural, and was better than many of the mainstream novels I’d read in the genre. Below is my Amazon Review from 2010.

BACK ON MURDER by is a new suspense thriller/police procedural by J. Mark Bertrand. While I received a free copy of the novel from the publisher, I was under no obligation to write a positive review. I’m happy to say that Bertrand has delivered an edgy, thought-provoking thriller. Homicide Det. Roland March is a flawed hero with a distinctive voice brought out by Bertrand’s witty first person writing.

March is the “suicide cop,” the detective assigned to cover suicides by policemen. It’s the worst job you can get, and a sign that March is on his way out. March doesn’t want to give up yet, jumps at the chance to work with Lorenz, an up and coming detective, on the murder of several gangbangers at an abandoned house. March discovers that a young girl may have been among the victims, and thinks he can tie it to the disappearance of Hannah Mayhew, the daughter of a famous televangelist.

There’s a lot of plot in this novel and March is right in the middle of it. There’s the attractive partner, the loyal friends, the corrupt cops, and the murderous drug dealers. But what kept me turning the pages was Roland March. Bertrand has created a great character with a unique voice. From page one, I really fell for March and his demeanor and actions. Early in the novel, Bertrand lets you know that he knows what he’s doing. He understand police and how they think and the politics involved in the daily operations of a major case.

March is motivated to solve the case and get back in the good graces of his coworkers. How did he fall out of favor with them? Something tragic happened with March and his wife, and we don’t even realize it at first. Less talented authors would spend pages at the beginning of the novel describing March’s tragic past and fall from grace. Bertrand delivers the information one small nugget at a time, both with March’s past and the backstory between him and other characters. This kept me reading, as I kept learning about March, even at the very end of the novel.

The plot is complex, with plenty of twists, but flows easily from page to page, with all loose ends tying together. My only complaint would be that one character seemed unnecessary (Tommy, the renter) and another, his attractive partner, wasn’t developed as much as she could have been. After learning of her faith and her fiance in Iraq , her role in the novel could have easily been played by any of the other nameless detectives in the division.

This is a Christian novel, but there is a lot of violence and death. The message of the novel is subtle and doesn’t beat you over the head. Bertand’s novel easily compares with books by Steven James (The Pawn, The Rook, The Knight) and fans of John Sandford and Michael Connelly should enjoy it as well.


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