Griffin’s debut novel propels readers into the chilling worlds of big-money drugs, small-town corruption, and a murderer who strikes without conscience.
Vicious killer Harlan Lee’s out of prison, but his plans don’t include leading a redemptive life: all Lee has on his mind is revenge against the people who put him there. First to suffer is William Petite, the district attorney who put him away. Afterward, Lee heads for Newberg, Wisconsin, to finish what he started by systematically going through the rest of the players involved in his case, including both a former sheriff, Lipinski, and Norgaard, Newberg’s retired police chief. But Norgaard’s institutionalized and almost not worth bothering with until Lee discovers the elderly man’s family: Ben Sawyer, a disgraced Oakland officer now with the Newberg police; Alex, Ben’s wife and Norgaard’s daughter; and their son, Jake. Ben, a good cop with a career-changing mistake behind him, hated returning to Newberg, where he and Alex grew up, and longs for his old life. Now Lee, as well as Ben’s current chief of police, Jorgenson, and his thoroughly evil narcotics head, McKenzie, have it in for him, and there’s no limit to how far they’ll go. Griffin instinctively creates a compelling atmosphere, but the bad guys in this novel—who seemingly include every law enforcement officer in the state of Wisconsin—are so plentiful and consummately evil that readers won’t ever look the same way at the patrol cars they pass. And that’s the novel’s biggest issue: Griffin has created characters so vile and depraved that the book reads like a Hannibal Lector convention. As a plus, Griffin is a cop in real life, which adds authenticity and the patina of the real deal to his work.
Over-the-top evil turns this otherwise excellent first novel into an exercise in extremes, but even at its worst, Griffin’s work proves superior to the unrealistic fare that often passes for a police thriller.