Review

Mourn the Living

by Henry Perez

Private investigators are almost naturally a staple of mystery
and thriller fiction. Newspaper reporters are as well, given their
similarities to PIs. Individuals in both occupations ask questions,
kick rocks over, draw conclusions, and report what they find. And
the more that you act like you have something to hide, the more
likely it is that you will attract their attention.

Henry Perez has worked as a newspaper reporter and thus knows
well the territory that his novels explore. In MOURN THE LIVING, he
brings back Alex Chapa (introduced in his debut, KILLING RED), who
must balance real-world personal concerns with his professional
duties. Perez does not sugarcoat the current state of affairs in
the newspaper industry. Indeed, the declining fortunes of
newspapers, coupled with the quiet threat to Chapa’s
reporting job at the Chicago Record, constitute a quietly
menacing element throughout the novel. At the same time, Chapa is
on the horns of a personal dilemma, one that is exacerbated by his
professional circumstances.

As MOURN THE LIVING commences, Chapa is just beginning a
week-long visit with his young daughter Nikki when he is called off
of his scheduled vacation time. Jim Chakowski, the star
investigative reporter for the Chicago Record, has been
killed in an apparent accident, and Chapa is called back to fill in
the gap. Erin Sinclair, Chapa’s love interest, is more than
willing to pick up the slack and entertain Nikki during the day
while Chapa is working. But he finds himself confronted with the
possibility that Chakowski’s death was not accidental.
Chakowski, in fact, was working on a story that involved a series
of apparently unrelated murders in the area that may have involved
a number of other killings spread out over time and distance.

Picking up the thread of Chakowski’s investigation makes
Chapa unpopular with the powers-that-be at the Record,
which is published in Oakton, a clannish Chicago suburb. The
publisher has ties with the local business community, which in turn
controls what happens and what doesn’t by a heavy-handed
administrative fiat. The members of the Oakton police department
have little love for Chapa as well, given that his nosing around
inevitably makes them look bad. There is, of course, a real killer
out there, and as Chapa’s investigation gets closer to the
truth, the killer also gets closer to Chapa, putting him and those
he loves in terrible danger. This set of circumstances raises the
issue as to why Chapa is doing what he’s doing when his job
probably will not even exist sooner rather than later. Sinclair
genuinely loves him, yet is understandably concerned about his
commitment to his job, particularly when it puts him and those he
loves in jeopardy. As a result, the book presents an interesting
and prickly situation that, as we ultimately see, has no easy or
settled answers.

There is a puzzling and perplexing mystery at the core of this
story, one that Chapa may not walk away from intact. And there are
some great action scenes as well. One in particular, which takes
place in the last quarter of the book, involves a cornfield, among
other things. Perez includes some passages there that are not only
edge-of- your-seat but also heart-in-your-mouth descriptions that
will leave you dizzy. Chapa is building a great series the
old-fashioned way, and it’s one that you should start reading
now.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

Mourn the Living
by Henry Perez

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2010
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Pinnacle
  • ISBN-10: 0786020334
  • ISBN-13: 9780786020331