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From the Lieutenant Morales Mystery series, volume 3

by AJ Basinski

Pub Date: Nov. 28th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-981243-14-3
Publisher: CreateSpace

A former cop must find the culprit who brutally assaulted his wife in this third installment of a thriller series.

Lt. Mario Morales is head of security on the cruise ship the Mardi Gras. He spends his downtime with his wife of seven months, Sun Li, who’s also a ship employee. One night, Morales awakens in the couple’s cabin to find a masked individual beating Sun Li. The assailant dazes Morales with a blow to the head before escaping, although no passenger sees anyone run from the room.  Sun Li’s injuries are so severe that the Coast Guard picks her up for transportation to a trauma hospital. When the ship finally returns to the Miami home port, local police take over the investigation. But they surprisingly arrest Morales and charge him with attempted murder. Morales’ new lawyer, Rick Chopin, gets him out on bail but the ex-cop doesn’t plan on sitting around. Prior to his arrest, he’d surmised the attack had ties to Shanghai Blue, the company where Sun Li once worked, which Morales learned was a front for illicit deeds. He’ll most likely have to head to China if he hopes to identify his wife’s attacker. Basinski (A Reservation for Murder, 2016, etc.) knows how to keep his plot moving. Smoothly transitioning perspectives from Morales and Chopin showcase two distinctive investigations, as the attorney is less assertive than the experienced former cop. The author moreover sets a stellar pace with short chapters and concise dialogue. There’s only a modicum of mystery, although Morales stumbles onto an apparent conspiracy and discovers a shocking secret about Sun Li. But a few elements of the tale are a bit bewildering. For example, at one point, Morales is certain he watches an individual die, only for the character to turn up alive later; it’s not clear, even by the end, how exactly that came about.

A likable recurring hero fronts a brisk but sometimes-confusing detective story.