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Crime Song

Review

Crime Song

I hope that you are reading the Frank Marr series by David Swinson. THE SECOND GIRL, the opening installment, fulfilled its own promise of great things, with an interesting mystery propelled by its complicated, and not entirely heroic or sympathetic, protagonist. CRIME SONG, book two in the series, exceeds the level of quality established by the first, drawing Frank further into a darkness of his own creation even as he retains enough insight and competence to see that justice (in whatever fashion) is ultimately done.

Frank is a former Washington, D.C. detective who was forced to take a premature retirement on the down low. The reason for this turn of events was his drug abuse. Frank is a high-functioning addict with a prodigious appetite for street and prescription drugs. Presently self-employed as a private investigator, he is not above utilizing an oddly fascinating combination of street smarts, investigative talents, and connections both within and outside the law to obtain his drugs of choice while taking on the occasional skip trace or surveillance client.

"Swinson’s first person present narrative and his own experience as a detective with the Washington, D.C. police department give CRIME SONG a grittiness and an immediacy from its relatively sedate beginning through its explosive second half."

As CRIME SONG begins, Frank has undertaken a case that is quite close to home: surveilling his cousin Jeffrey, who has moved to the D.C. area. He is performing this task at the behest of his aunt Linda, who was like a second mother to Frank. Linda is worried about Jeffrey, which is why she asks Frank to keep an eye on him. Frank quickly learns that Linda’s concern is not misplaced, as Jeffrey is making ends meet with some low-level drug dealing. Sensing a dual-purpose opportunity, Frank decides to scare Jeffrey back onto the path of righteousness and pick up his cousin’s inventory for his own use.

As the first step in this scheme, Frank burglarizes Jeffrey’s apartment, but gets the surprise of his life when, upon returning to his own home, he finds that it is a crime scene. It appears that someone has burglarized his apartment, taking, among other things, his computer, a phonograph record player, and hundreds of CDs and vinyl albums, including some that he inherited from his late mother. What is even worse, though, is that the burglar left something behind: Jeffrey’s body.

Frank has plenty of motivation for getting to the bottom of what has occurred. He is naturally a suspect in Jeffrey’s murder, with a number of people, including Linda, wholly or partly blaming him for the event. He liked his cousin and had several fond memories of him, so he wants to bring the murderer to justice. There is also the matter of Frank’s missing property, which has a lot of sentimental value for him, with those records being the highest on the list. He begins his search for the killer by doggedly and tenaciously searching for his property in pawn shops and thrift stores, cutting a corner here, calling in a favor there, and generally utilizing an investigative skill set acquired by his years of police work.

His discovery of a few items lead him to a cab driver who is very reluctantly enlisted in his search, which then leads to a junkie and a couple of drug dealers. From there, the investigation goes to some surprising places, including one in Frank’s past, as he pursues justice for his cousin while attempting to answer the overriding question that haunts him throughout the book: Why me?

Swinson’s first person present narrative and his own experience as a detective with the Washington, D.C. police department give CRIME SONG a grittiness and an immediacy from its relatively sedate beginning through its explosive second half. Once Frank’s investigation gains traction, what he finds along the way is not for the fainthearted. Driven equally by his addiction and his desire to see justice done, Frank Marr is a complex and (dare I say it?) addicting figure who hopefully has many more cases to experience.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 26, 2017

Crime Song
by David Swinson

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316264210
  • ISBN-13: 9780316264211