Mulholland Books/Little Brown and Company, $26.00, 354 pages, ISBN 978-0-316-26417-4
One of the main functions of the MBR is to spot and point out for our readers new, outstanding and fresh crime fiction writers who’ve created memorable characters doing unusual deeds in authentic situations. The locations and times vary, but our aim is to encourage folks to read by introducing them to the best talent we can find. This week we have a gem.
The Second Girl, by David Swinson is a rare first novel teeming with accuracy, grit and an achingly flawed character named Frankie Marr. He’s a retired Washington, D.C. detective who’s scratching out a slim living as a private investigator, and working overtime to conceal the fact that he’s addicted to alcohol and drugs. Like Sherlock Holmes, cocaine is his drug of choice, and oxycotin’s just dandy too, but never, ever does he resort to crack or heroin. Too addictive, he thinks, and not for me. Frankie scores his drugs by ripping off dealers, stealing the contents of their stash houses after staking them out for a few days. That’s what he’s doing as the novel begins . . . and it’s how Frankie Marr inadvertently finds and recues a kidnapped sixteen year-old girl, after he finds her cowering and chained to an eye-bolt, screwed into the floor. Frankie’s seen as a hero—prompting the parents of a second missing girl to beg him to find their daughter, who disappeared months earlier and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. After stating I hate juvie cases, a damaged and reluctant P.I. sets out to solve a case he expects can only end in heartbreak, through the mean and gang-infested streets of our nation’s capitol.
Author David Swinson—himself a sixteen-year veteran of the D.C. Metro Police Department—writes with the sure hand of experience, evoking the sights and sounds of the city so well that the reader can almost feel the grit and grime and see that Doritos bag laying on the curb. Frankie Marr’s a fascinating character you, the reader, won’t know whether to love or hate . . . but you won’t be able to take your eyes off of him . . . or stop wondering what he’ll do next!