THE OUTSIDER is a new entry in Chris Culver’s Ash Rashid series and a most welcome one. THE ABBEY, which initially appeared as a self-published eBook, garnered phenomenal sales that earned Culver a traditional publishing agreement as well as a home for this follow-up. The primary hooks to the series, though not by any means the only ones, are that 1) Rashid is a practicing (but not a strict) Muslim, and 2) he is a burnt-out Indianapolis police detective who, after 12 years on the force, wants a career change to the practice of law. As in THE ABBEY, however, Rashid keeps finding himself reluctantly sucked back into law enforcement.
"What begins as the investigation into an ordinary woman’s death eventually wends its way through a twisted tale of greed, corruption and organized crime."
The investigation that draws Rashid in this book involves the murder of a woman on a city street. He has a tenuous connection to the victim --- she is the mother of one of his daughter’s friends --- but what ultimately seals the deal of his involvement is the fact that the Indianapolis PD would rather ignore the crime than investigate it. Rashid persists, despite the fact that everyone who gets close to the investigation, particularly witnesses, winds up dead as well.
Culver’s plot here is much more complex than what formed the basis for THE ABBEY. What begins as the investigation into an ordinary woman’s death eventually wends its way through a twisted tale of greed, corruption and organized crime. Culver is an able guide, not only through the plot but also through the streets of Indianapolis, a place that does not exactly have a reputation as a high-stakes criminal locale. He also does yeoman’s work in presenting the less glamorous and more tedious side of crime fighting, the process by which criminals are brought to answer for their actions in the real world.
Along with the investigation, there are procedures to be followed that are part and parcel of the ultimate determination as to whether or not a case will be prosecuted. It is not enough that the accused might be guilty; the prosecutor, no matter how driven or honorable, wants to win. In THE OUTSIDER, the acting prosecutor isn’t dishonest so much as overwhelmed by the system: the caseloads, the minutia of procedure, and, perhaps most of all, the pressures of the politics of the office. All come to bear both for and against Rashid as he attempts to see justice through to its end, however imperfect.
Ultimately, the reason to come to this book and stay is Rashid. His religion is a facet of his personality, but is by no means its only element. Rashid ultimately is driven to know the truth and make things right in spite of other desires and goals of his that might be delayed if he continues his professional crusade. His navigation through the system --- and his own heart --- is ultimately what makes THE OUTSIDER such a joy to read.
My understanding is that Culver has more books planned for the series, which would be fantastic news. His exploration of the many facets of Rashid’s personality and the incidental ins and outs of the city of Indianapolis make for great reading. This and future volumes should be snapped up as quickly as the author can write them.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 28, 2013