Kill Romeo, a First-Rate Murder Mystery by Andrew Diamond

The Bottom Line: A fast-paced, first-rate murder mystery that crackles with sexual tension.

Private detective Freddy Ferguson is back in Andrew Diamond’s long-awaited follow-up to Gate 76 (one of our Best Thrillers of 2018).

The book’s spectacular opening chapter is one that will burn in readers’ memories long after finishing the book. While in rural Virginia doing a background check on a rising politician, Freddy decides to prolong his stay at the home of a politically connected woman – who goes by simply “Mrs. Jackson” – for a little rest and relaxation. The first rule of detective fiction is that detectives can never truly take a vacation. Accordingly, while on a hike with Mrs. Jackson’s dog, Freddy discovers the body of a young woman. A beaver dam breaks, washing them downstream. Freddy is saved, but the whereabouts of the body is anyone’s guess. When the hard-edged local sheriff shows little interest in even locating the body, Mrs. Jackson persuades Freddy to stay and look into it. It’s a challenge his good nature can’t say no to.

The investigation soon leads to a pair of provocative notes purportedly written by the deceased, including one that ends with this stunner: “I lied, just like you. They’re not here. Disappointment is a bitter pill, isn’t it?”

Longtime fans of Diamond’s work will relish a supporting role by financial auditor Claire Chastain, who is the focus of another Diamond-penned series. Freddy, who narrates Kill Romeo in his own voice, hints at the sexual tension between him and Claire to come early on: “I’d been asking myself if my motives were pure when I asked her to work with us. Was there some attraction…” Thankfully, the answer to his question about attraction is yes, and the chemistry between the two characters simmers and crackles throughout. All the while, in moments of powerful personal reflection, Freddy expresses his struggle to break the quiet desperation that has gripped his life for far too long.

The murder mystery driving Kill Romeo is first-rate. So too is the writing, as Diamond injects the plot with thoughtful passages and bits of dialogue that explore the ramifications of loneliness and social isolation. In some cases, the cited cause is societal, and in others, the work of sinister individuals intentionally isolating their victims. The sum is a novel that is simultaneously entertaining, suspenseful and cathartic. It also delivers a surprising amount of closure for a second series book.

While Kill Romeo is technically a second series book and at least a half-sibling to his Claire Chastain series, the book also works perfectly as a stand-alone for newcomers.

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