I love paperback novels. This might be considered literary blasphemy in some circles, but so be it. I learned how to read with them, and at one point they were the mainstays of the mystery/suspense and science fiction genres that I have followed for almost fifty years. There has been a resurgence in the mass market paperback of late, particularly with respect to original novels. One of the many noteworthy releases is a new series by John Ramsey Miller, of which the second, UPSIDE DOWN, has just been published.
UPSIDE DOWN occurs approximately one year after the events of INSIDE OUT, the novel that introduced U.S. Marshall Winter Massey. Massey, recovering from the gunshot wounds he sustained during the course of protecting Sean Devlin, is now married to her; he also has just tendered his resignation to the U.S. Marshall service, having accepted what he expects to be a more sedate position with a private security firm. But Massey's quiet recuperation in Charlotte, North Carolina is soon to be turned upside down by news from New Orleans. Hank Trammel, Massey's fellow U.S. Marshall and best friend, has been grievously and perhaps mortally injured in a hit-and-run accident, an incident that left Trammel's wife murdered.
The tragedy for the Trammel family does not end there. Kimberly Porter, Trammel's niece, is a well-known defense attorney and involved in the eleventh hour defense of Horace Pond, who is scheduled to be executed by the State of Louisiana within 36 hours. Porter and a potential exonerating witness in the Pond case have been found, brutally murdered in Porter's office. Faith Ann Porter, Kimberly's twelve-year-old daughter, is missing, and is the only witness to the murder. Worse, she had in her possession the evidence that would prove Pond's innocence. Faith Ann is on the run from a bizarre but deadly duo of assassins as well as members of the New Orleans Police Department who are on the payroll of Jerry Bennett, a well-connected local businessman who in fact is guilty of the murder of which Pond is accused.
Massey, with Trammel clinging to life, interjects himself into the mix, attempting to find --- and save --- Faith Ann and ultimately see that justice is done not only for Pond but also for Bennett. What Massey does not know, however, is that he himself is in mortal danger from a separate source, as an enemy from his past attempts to strike at him, utilizing a hit man who literally could be anyone.
As good as INSIDE OUT was, Miller really hits his stride with UPSIDE DOWN, using the city of New Orleans as a backdrop to maximum effect. Eschewing the obvious choice of the French Quarter as a setting for UPSIDE DOWN, Miller uses the Garden District, Uptown, and particularly the Canal Place shopping mall and Audubon Aquarium, to maximum effect. Miller's utilization of Canal Place is especially exemplary. Not one of the most exciting places in the city even under the best of circumstances, Miller transforms it into a claustrophobic maze as Faith Ann is relentlessly pursued by the assassin team while Massey makes a valiant effort to play catch-up. And while the conclusion of UPSIDE DOWN resolves some issues in Massey's life, it leaves others open, ones that hopefully will be resolved in SIDE BY SIDE, to be published in Fall 2005.
It appears that Miller, after several years' absence following 1996's THE LAST FAMILY, is on track and back to stay. Recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 25, 2011