Minotaur Books/St. Martins Publishing Group, $26.99, 2936 pages, ISBN 978-1-250-11009-1
The Mysterious Book Report is always on the lookout for promising debut authors with unique protagonists and interesting points of view, that are set in unusual places which are all wrapped up in an original and compelling plot. This is such a one, an outstanding new murder mystery that takes place down south, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Dark River Rising, by Roger Johns features Baton Rouge Police Detective Wallace Hartman. As the novel begins, she’s on scene at a deserted warehouse, where a local druglord was found tortured and murdered . . . with a live snake sewn into his belly. Shortly thereafter, a Federal Agent named Mason Cunningham shows up, and, rather than commandeering the case, becomes Wallace’s ally in solving the complex crime that gets more intriguing by the page, as each new development is revealed. Mason turns out to be a numbers cruncher, and an analyst rather than a field agent. He’s come to Baton Rouge because of some anomalies in the data he’s been studying, information he believes indicate a holocaust is brewing in southern Louisiana. As Wallace and Mason search for answers, a world-class scientist with ties to the murder victim disappears from a high-security government laboratory . . . along with a truckload of sensitive chemistry equipment. As the baffling case gets more complicated and dangerous, the pair of law officers form an uneasy partnership that uses Wallace’s insights and local contacts combined with Mason’s ability to access federal resources. What they don’t realize however, is that their lives are in increasing jeopardy as the killer stalks them with an agenda that no one can imagine in this thrilling, well-constructed and thoughtful murder mystery. Wallace Hartman is a tough, fearless and smart character with a boatload of personal appeal. We’re looking forward to more of her adventures as soon as Mr. John’s can produce them.