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Brian Freeman is one of the names on my must-read list, particularly when his newly published work is part of the Jonathan Stride series, as is the case with his latest novel. MARATHON finds Stride and Serena Dial slowly but quickly adjusting to their long-delayed domestic tranquility against the backdrop of social and political unrest in Duluth, Minnesota. While the core mystery propelling the book has a somewhat predictable result, the interaction among Stride, Serena and the supporting cast that Freeman has so strikingly created over the course of the series ultimately saves the day.

"Freeman’s character and plot development remain first-rate throughout MARATHON, and the continuing thread involving Stride and Serena should bring readers back for more."

One can read MARATHON without knowing what has gone before, which makes the book a good place to jump on for future installments and an excellent motivator for going back and reading the series, starting at the beginning with IMMORAL. The dark mood of those novels has been supplanted here by great tragedy --- there is a difference --- that begins with an explosion and reverberates and shatters throughout. The story opens on a rainy Saturday morning in June, when the conclusion of the running of the Duluth Marathon is marred --- for some, irrevocably --- by a terrorist attack. One of the spectators at the race reports seeing a man of Middle Eastern appearance moving through the crowd, carrying a backpack. When the witness, subsequent to the explosion, spots a photo of the man  --- this time without a backpack --- he quickly tweets the picture, which causes it to go viral.

Stride, Serena, and Stride’s police partner, Maggie Bei, join forces with the FBI (a bit of jockeying for position notwithstanding) to hunt down the perpetrator. The man in the photograph is identified as Khan Rashid, and the rush to judgment in the aftermath of the explosion blows up Rashid’s life in the worst possible of ways. Stride, Serena and Maggie must determine if their chief suspect is in fact the perpetrator, and, if not, who the actual doer is.

Time is of the essence, given that each minute that goes by increases the risk that more bloodshed will occur, including that of those who may be falsely accused. In the four days following the explosion, the trio’s professional and personal relationships are tasked as never before, as they methodically identify the killer. The issue, however, is whether they can prevent further tragedy from occurring; the answer reverberates long after the final paragraph is read.

Those familiar with mysteries and the prevalence of political correctness that seems to hold sway in popular literature will not be surprised by the investigation or the book’s conclusion. Perhaps the reason for the variations between what occurs in the fictional Duluth of the book and the real world in Boston, Columbus, Orlando, Paris and elsewhere is to keep the story from mirroring those events too closely. Nonetheless, Freeman’s character and plot development remain first-rate throughout MARATHON, and the continuing thread involving Stride and Serena should bring readers back for more.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on May 12, 2017

by Brian Freeman

  • Publication Date: May 2, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus
  • ISBN-10: 1681442418
  • ISBN-13: 9781681442419