Monday, June 10, 2013

Review of Penance by Dan O’Shea (Exhibit A, 2013)

An elderly lady is shot through the heart as she leaves a church in Chicago after confession, dying in a state of grace.  Detective John Lynch is assigned to investigate what seems like a senseless murder.  Lynch is a second generation cop, his father killed in the line of duty in 1971 whilst investigating the death of a politician.  At first there is little for Lynch to go on other than the elderly woman was the mother of a well connected billionaire and the shot appears to have been fired from long distance by a skilled marksman.  The shooting has also been noted by Colonel Weaver, the head of a black ops unit in Washington who specialised in ‘neutralising’ enemies of the state.  He is missing a sniper, who appears to have gone rogue after his family was murdered.  He now wants the sniper neutralised and any trace of his existence airbrushed from history, especially given the sniper’s connections to Chicago’s political elite, even if that means tarring members of the Chicago police force.  As Lynch and Weaver’s teams race to find the rogue sniper, he kills again, and seems set to continue his murderous spree until he’s avenged the deaths caused by the actions of his own and his victims’ families.

Penance felt to me like a mash-up of Michael Connelly, Tom Clancy and Stuart Neville’s The Twelve -- a smart, well-written police procedural thriller, mixing cops with black ops spooks, political intrigue and a rogue operative seeking to avenge deaths through murder.  The story is all tell and no show with engaging prose, and rattles along at a quick, page-turning pace.  I was hooked from the get-go and zipped through in a couple of sittings.  The characterisation is good across the cast and Lynch is especially likeable as the cop who’s determined to get his man regardless of the obstacles and odds.  The plot builds in tension throughout, and does a good job at fleshing out some of Lynch’s back story and present life outside of work, such as a new romance with a journalist and his relationship to his mother and sister.  It does, however, also use a couple too many plot devices to bind the whole story together, such as linking the present to Lynch’s father’s past, conveniently finding clues that he probably should have found year’s before, and having a member of his own team with black ops connections.  Despite these niggles, Penance is an enjoyable and engaging read and I have a feeling that Detective John Lynch might do for Chicago what Harry Bosch has for Los Angeles.  And that’s no bad thing.  Here’s hoping the next book is the pipeline.

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