In Michaels’ debut novel, a murderer mysteriously leaves chess pieces at the scenes of multiple Texas homicides.
Dallas district attorney Demond Stark was apparently killed by a gunshot to his groin. Later, police homicide unit Cmdr. John Assisi finds that two other female victims were murdered in the same fashion. His colleagues are initially wary of connecting the three killings, as, in Stark’s case, the bullet wound might not have been the cause of death. Then Assisi discovers an unmistakable common denominator: a chess piece at each crime scene. Meanwhile, former U.S. Army Special Forces Cmdr. Robert Jake is tormented by memories of an ambush in Iraq a decade before, in which 18 of his fellow soldiers died. Later, he suspects that someone involved in the ambush may have sabotaged his private plane, which almost crashed when he was flying it with his teenage daughter, Rose. It turns out that the ambush may also be linked to the ongoing Dallas murder investigation. Michaels effectively conceals the killer’s identity and specific motive, which keeps the story engaging. At the same time, the author proficiently develops his characters; for example, widower Jake’s relationships with Rose and his sister, Bonnie, are particularly rewarding. The story does have its share of violent sequences, but even the murder scenes aren’t excessively graphic; instead, the author concentrates on building suspense and deepening the mystery. There are plot turns aplenty, and not all of them are predictable. Nevertheless, one final twist might have benefited from further explanation; as it is, it furnishes more questions than answers.
A riveting murder mystery with well-drawn characters.