UNSETTLE THE SCORE by Jeffrey L. Hollman


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In Hollman’s debut thriller, a car accident leaves a young girl dead, spurring the girl’s gangster father, a dormant serial killer and multiple government agencies into action.

After Tom Jasper receives a Man of the Year Award “for service to [the] community,” he and his teacher wife, Maureen, are in good spirits on their drive home. This mood quickly disappears when their Jeep hits a young girl named Cecelia, who turns out to be the daughter of notorious mob boss Dmitri Mason. At first, he seems like any other distraught father—but then he becomes more threatening. It’s clear from the start that Dmitri is not the squeaky-clean man he portrays himself to be, and his arbitrary, unpredictable nature makes him an indelible villain. Tension builds as Dmitri slowly inserts himself into Tom’s and Maureen’s lives, suddenly appearing at their lake house to blackmail them with his knowledge of a confidential Child Protective Services case at Maureen’s school. Dmitri also surreptitiously contacts a dangerous man named Peter, who ended a serial-killing spree nine years before. The story is a seemingly endless source of characters, all made possible by Dmitri’s infamy: He’s suspected of everything from transporting nuclear materials to counterfeiting, which piques the interest of the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Secret Service. The hefty cast includes such salient characters as former fed-turned-PI Sue Ruskin, who’s looking for an elusive killer, known as the Sunrise Stabber, who may have resurfaced; and Mark Trendler, an enthusiastic campus security officer who “barely failed” the police exam and is determined to watch over Tom and Maureen’s daughter Sherry. Hollman keeps the story from becoming convoluted by keeping his characters’ motivations clear and concise: The bad guys want to do bad things, and the good guys are there to stop them. The story’s last section feels a bit rushed as it steers its way toward a conclusion, but all its loose ends are tied up with a definitive resolution.

An ambitious thriller, successful in nearly every respect.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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