Review

A Killing Night

by Jonathon King



Jonathon King, with his new novel A KILLING NIGHT, just may
rightfully claim the title as the successor to John D. MacDonald.
Although MacDonald was a successful novelist in a number of genres,
he was best known for his Travis McGee series. The McGee novels
were, at their most basic level, detective stories, but they serve
as a subtle yet sharp chronicle of south Florida in the
mid-twentieth century. A KILLING NIGHT is only King's fourth novel,
yet he consistently demonstrates a talent that runs strong, deep,
and true.

King's protagonist is Max Freeman, a former Philadelphia police
officer who comes unhinged after shooting an unarmed juvenile.
Freeman, retired to an abandoned fishing shack deep in the
Everglades, ventures out only on rare occasions and usually at the
behest of his friend, attorney Billy Manchester. A KILLING NIGHT
finds Freeman actually spending more time within society, slowly
and reluctantly dwelling among people in an oceanfront cottage
owned by Manchester.

Freeman cannot escape the past, however, and it collides with his
present circumstances when he is asked to investigate an ex-cop
named Colin O'Shea. O'Shea and Freeman have a brief but intense
history: O'Shea was on the Philadelphia police force with Freeman
and saved Freeman's life during a bust gone bad. But O'Shea is now
suspected of being involved in the disappearance of two barmaids in
Broward County, and he was investigated for a similar disappearance
back in Philadelphia. Freeman is reluctant to roll a fellow
ex-officer, particularly when there is no indication that a crime
has actually been committed.

Meanwhile, Freeman is in the crosshairs on another front when
Manchester retains him as an assistant in a lawsuit involving a
group of injured cruise ship attendants. The attendants are being
intimidated and harassed, and Freeman's involvement in the case
puts him, along with Manchester and his fiancée, in danger.
Freeman narrates most of the story, with some third-person
interludes to give the reader a bit more information that Freeman
has concerning what's occurring. This accordingly gives the reader
a heads-up when Freeman makes an occasional, if understandable,
misstep.

Manchester has grown into an extremely strong secondary character,
to the extent that one cannot help but wish to see him used more
frequently. South Florida is a strong and potent backdrop for A
KILLING NIGHT, with King serving as a documentarian of the cultural
and social mores of the area in the same manner --- and with, dare
I say, the same quality --- that MacDonald did four decades
ago.

The quality of King's work has increased exponentially with each
successive novel, and his craftsmanship is gradually becoming the
standard to which many of his peers must aspire. If you are
unfamiliar with this man's work, now is the time to get
acquainted.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

A Killing Night
by Jonathon King

  • Publication Date: March 21, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0525948651
  • ISBN-13: 9780525948650