His past had come calling, dropping by unexpectedly, in the shape of an officially unidentified female body left like garbage in a vacant lot.
The world for crime reporter Mark Freer is turning upside down—he’s become disillusioned with his career in the dying print journalist industry, and his wife is taking his child and leaving him for her family back in El Paso. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the cops’ newest case is a jane doe who was found beaten to death a few miles away from Mark’s place—a woman he instantly recognizes as Amelia, once an old flame, now a dead junkie. Mark blames himself for the tragedy—he walked out on her right when her addiction became too much for him to handle—and with the cops not finding many leads, Mark feels obligated to look into Amelia’s murder. His investigation leads him down a seedy trail of drugs and murder in the Georgia underworld.
Ed Brock got his start as a crime reporter before penning Pale in Death, his first crime novel. And Mark’s investigation is presented with the verisimilitude that feels drawn from Brock’s real-life experiences, little touches on his day-to-day life and the various stories he’s called to report on. There’s also a strong atmosphere of desperation and decay that I hope wasn’t drawn from experience, Mark Freer’s life—and the underworld he enters to investigate Amelia’s murder—is haunted, filthy, and falling apart, though Mark is not without hope for redemption. Seeing Amelia avenged will be one step in the right direction, freeing himself from his pressing guilt—he feels he’s the one who pulled her into drug addiction only to abandoned her. And he still has feelings for his wife, so there’s always the chance he can get his family life back on track.
Pale In Death is a nicely paced crime-thriller; Brock has a good sense of character, especially for the complex but sympathetic Mark, and he does a good job with the novel’s plotting. I don’t really have a ton to say about Pale In Death, because I don’t want to spoil too much as it’s not a terribly long book—I’ve seen other publishers market sub-200-page books as “novellas”—but it feels the right length, has the right price, and made for several nights’ worth of entertaining reading. It slides into 280 Steps‘ lineup of original crime fiction, a shelf of modern crime and thriller novels that’s been growing steadily over the last few years. Brock’s novel is a good addition, and I’m curious to see where future novels will take him.
Title: Pale in Death
Author: Ed Brock
First Published Date: 2015
What I Read: ebook (280 Steps)
Price I Paid: $1.99
MSRP: $13.99 pb / $1.99 ebook
ISBN/ASIN: 978-8293326588 / B0114O8MLO