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In Culver’s (Nine Years Gone, 2014, etc.) latest police thriller, a woman is killing the people who sent her husband to death row, and police detective Ash Rashid must stop her.

Michelle Washington’s murder looks like a ritual killing: an offering to Santa Muerte, the cult of Holy Death. She was Ash’s Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, so her death hits him hard. Soon, a woman named Carla Ramirez convinces Michelle’s brother, Dante, that Ash was responsible for the death, so Dante tries to kill him. Ash kills Dante in self-defense, and some members of the media are all over it, because he isn’t just a controversial cop—he’s also a Muslim. He also has a reputation for being reckless, insubordinate, opinionated, and very good at his job. As a result, he has enemies, including internal affairs officers, a corrupt local prosecutor, and a television news reporter who will do anything to bring him down. His minority status also attracts both curiosity and bigotry. As more people die, Ash notices a pattern: all of the victims once testified against Santino Ramirez, Carla’s husband, who’s now on death row. But other mysteries remain: why are the deaths so gruesome? What message is the killer trying to send? It turns out that the murders may have something to do with drugs and Ramirez’s old gang, Barrio Sureño. Culver’s Ash Rashid series has been successful, and the reason is clear: the novels are well-written and suspenseful, with engaging characters and plot shifts to keep readers hooked. His main character is very much in the vein of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, but instead of descriptions of history-laden Boston, Culver offers details about Indianapolis, as immigration and economic change alter its traditional Midwestern mix. The fact that Ash is a Muslim is underplayed, but it remains integral to the story and to his very distinctive personality; he prays five times a day and is often conflicted when his life pushes him away from the religious values he tries to uphold.

A riveting page-turner whose author is a worthy heir to the late Robert B. Parker.

Pub Date: May 28th, 2015
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
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