The Bottom Line: Steve Shockley’s soldier sleuth shines in this page-turner set in 1970s North Carolina.
Set shortly after the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam in the 1970s, combat veteran Sergeant Major Zinny Zubell is hastily released from the army after two decades of service as part of a reduction in force. Loyalty to a friend in need takes him to Charlotte, North Carolina, where he finds temporary work with a senior law partner Claude Sedley.
The new arrangement doesn’t last long. Zubell finds the attorney’s behavior regarding his delivery of a mysterious letter to a small-time entrepreneur, Damon Slade, evasive at best. In the early going, Sedley flat-out refuses to answer Zubell’s questions. Soon after, when Zubell confronts Sedley about a topic involving his brother, he dismisses him for good in the way that only a southern gentlemen of a certain era can.
Of course, that isn’t the end of it – not by a long shot. In Zubell, author Steve Shockley has created a hero who is both tenacious and relentless, even when neither are in his own best interest. Despite friend Major Jack’s advice to leave the entire matter alone, the three-tour veteran is determined to plow forward. And Zubell’s experience as a military investigator has prepared him to be Sedley’s worst nightmare.
But his path won’t be easy. After things get out of control at a local funeral, Zubell hilariously throws
himself on the mercy of the local police, saying, “Sir, there might be reports of incidents involving us.” Of
course, this strategy fails, as no good deed in Zubell’s life seems to go unpunished. He’s charged with
second-degree assault and battery, trespassing, and communicating threats – making his path to
exposing Sedley and Damon Slade more difficult.
In Shockley’s careful drawing, Zubell is far more than a loose cannon who turns to pushups and jumping
jacks to quell his rage. His compassion and loyalty are quite moving as he takes care of Major Jack, who,
after enduring multiple surgeries, has been on suicide watch (and that won’t be the end of service to his
friend). The sum of Zubell’s actions make him an entirely sympathetic character, as well as a compelling
amateur sleuth. And as the plot thickens, Shockley delivers a few surprises that make for compulsive