Book Review: The Good Detective by John McMahon

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The Good Detective by John McMahonI picked up The Good Detective by John McMahon because it’s a new start of a series and it’s published this very month. The story seemed intriguing – a detective tasked to solve a murder when he seems to be the one to have committed the crime? Sign me up.

P.T. Marsh has been a rising star on the Mason Falls, Georgia, police department until the year before when his wife and kid had been killed during an accident. Since then, Marsh has been drinking a lot and has been more and more careless with his daily tasks. So much that one night he visits the home of a hooker to help her out – to talk some sense into her abusive boyfriend.

Of course, that backfires the next day when he is called to the scene of a crime: that abusive boyfriend has been found dead. And the problem is, Marsh doesn’t exactly remember in which state he left that guy, dead or alive, after giving him a much-needed beating.

This is the premise of the book, and I got hooked on it from the start. The premise breaks away from the old tired mold, so it got me curious. And the more I’ve read, the more intrigued I’ve become. Because soon, it was clear that the story went places I wouldn’t have thought. Arson, the lynching of black young people, and even something that strongly resembles an old cult, these are all ingredients of a great story.

While reading, I actually forgot this is the author’s debut novel. It was well written, and the humor injected especially into the thoughts and words of Marsh worked quite well. Even though the book is a serious crime/thriller novel, I did have a few random, much-needed chuckles along the way. P.T., as everyone calls him, is quite the interesting character, and it was fun to observe his transformation from that reckless drunk into the sharp police detective that he used to be before the tragedy struck in his life.

Marsh would constantly doubt himself, thinking he might have killed that guy, while relentlessly pursuing his own leads. Even when the department politics and PR decided they got the right guy, his gut told him to go deeper and search some more. And, of course, as it is with crime mystery novels, his search got results, albeit with some interesting results. The author did not shy away from topics like white supremacy and racism in the South. I’m not absolutely sure I agree with the book ending, but I do agree that sometimes, that’s how things are resolved and peace is restored, at least for the next 25 years.

Now that he knows the real story behind his family’s tragedy, he can move on and continue doing what he does best: solve strange, complex, and sometimes creepy cases.

Even though the book is straight-up murder fiction, I did appreciate that southern Georgian gothic paranormal undertones. Nothing paranormal actually happened in the book. But the undercurrent was there. I wonder whether the author will expand a bit more on this theme in his next P.T. Marsh book.

Overall, this was a well-rewarding debut novel, which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I’m looking forward to the second P.T. Marsh story.

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