Old habits die hard, and sometimes cause collateral damage, in this character-driven crime story.
Retired D.C. cop Frank Marr works as a private investigator. He's a pro at the job but uses it as a means to fuel his drug addiction. While looting a house of its stash—he had it under surveillance for just this reason—he finds a kidnapped girl, and doing the right thing threatens to unravel the life he's built. Author Swinson, himself a former D.C. police detective, brings the neighborhood and its criminal underworld to gritty life and gives the drug trade's handoffs and turf disputes an insider's intimate view. Marr is a compelling mess, saving the day not once but twice while constantly checking his nostrils for powder residue or the odd trickle of blood. When it suits his purpose (or covers his hobby) he'll take a life, but the lines he will or will not cross seem to be in constant motion, and that unpredictability keeps the tension high. Threats from some who know Marr's "early retirement" was a de facto firing don't cow him so much as push him to rebel. If the bad guys kill first and worry about the details later, doesn't justice require someone equally unconstrained to take them on? Marr may be a disaster on legs, but he gets inside a reader’s head with ease; when he leaves someone to die then doubles back with second thoughts, it's shocking to note how infectious his perspective is. The ethical questions about his lifestyle aren't settled here, so it’s good news that this is merely an introduction to a character who plans to return.
An auspicious, and gleefully amoral, series debut.