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The Murder Man


The Murder Man

Tony Parsons may be on your must-read list already. He is well known and respected for his journalistic efforts and for his novels, which he describes as “Men Lit.” His new book, THE MURDER MAN, finds him bringing his sharp powers of description, character development and observation to the mystery genre. The result is one that you will stay up all night reading.

THE MURDER MAN had me from the first page. I was put in the mind of “The Avengers” --- Steed and Peel, not Stark and Rogers --- because of the quality of the plotting, dialogue and, yes, prose in general. The story begins with a hair-raising vignette taking place in 1988 before moving forward to the present, in which we are introduced to Max Wolfe. When we initially meet Max, he is on assignment as a Counter Terrorism Command Surveillance Officer. A heart-stopping decision earns him the Queen’s Police Medal and “A” List recognition with law enforcement personnel upon his subsequent transfer to a Murder Investigation Squad of the London Metro Police.

"[Tony Parsons'] new book, THE MURDER MAN, finds him bringing his sharp powers of description, character development and observation to the mystery genre. The result is one that you will stay up all night reading."

As Max gets his baptism with his squad by somewhat grisly fire --- more on that in a moment --- we learn that he is the single parent of a five-year-old daughter and an extremely disobedient but nonetheless beloved puppy, has a love of coffee, is deceptively low-key, and is very dangerous when the occasion is appropriate. He is also likely to deviate from command orders, but only when necessary. To summarize, Max is not the badly bent, if not totally broken, substance-addicted law enforcement officer who goes off the rail at the drop of a hat. Don’t get me wrong; I like that type of character, but I very much like what Parsons is doing here with Max. To put it another way, Max Wolfe is more Steve Carella than Harry Hole. And that’s fine.

Max is also extremely smart, so that soon enough he establishes connections between two victims when two separate men are found murdered miles apart in a similar manner. One is a banker, the other is a homeless but recovering drug addict. The word “pig” is found written in blood at their respective murder scenes. In swift course, Max discovers that the two men, despite the difference in their respective stations, knew each other some time ago. The reader at least has an inkling as to the “whydunit” issue, thanks to that grim 1988 vignette that opens the book, if not entirely the who of the act. A series of Internet postings from a presence who quickly becomes known as “Bob the Butcher” seems to have intimate knowledge of the murders.

While Max is not entirely convinced that the poster and the murderer are the same person, he and his team mount a dogged investigation as they feel pressure to bring closure to the case before the body count mounts further. They are not entirely successful in this regard, and Max himself comes uncomfortably (make that painfully) close to the killer, an encounter that is recorded and posted by Bob the Butcher on the Internet. It makes Max all the more determined to bring the murderer to justice, but in doing so, he may be putting himself --- and what remains of his family --- in greater danger. As Max closes in on the elusive and talented killer, he finds that his professional talents, skills and instincts will be challenged in ways that they never have before.

I don’t know what urge possessed Tony Parsons to turn his attention to mystery fiction --- particularly the police procedural corner of the genre --- but those of us who will never get too much of a good thing will find THE MURDER MAN to be an excellent literary repast. Put this one at the top of your reading pile, and don’t let it stay there for too long without starting and finishing it.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 17, 2014

The Murder Man
by Tony Parsons

  • Publication Date: October 7, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250052327
  • ISBN-13: 9781250052322