Two Lists, a Highly Recommended Murder Mystery by Thomas Thorson

The Bottom LineTwo Lists deftly blends an unusual murder case and decidedly unorthodox crime-fighting tactics. Highly recommended.  

Trouble easily finds its way to Vinn and Malcolm’s front door, even when they’ve sworn it off for good. The two academics teaching at the University of Illinois at Chicago have become an unlikely crime-fighting duo, taking on gruesome murder cases, doing covert work for government agencies and getting tangled up in one too many violent altercations.

And they’ve finally had enough. Vinn and Mal have now sworn off their dangerous extracurricular work and decided to put their energy back into their “legitimate jobs” at the University. But when Vinn is approached by her powerful department head and implored to look into the murder of his brother-in-law, the two are reluctantly drawn back into their shadowy side hustle. As Mal says, “It’s as if we’re a pair of moths that are unwillingly but inevitably drawn to the candle’s flame.”

The case is baffling from the get-go, as the victim — a businessman — is found naked in the bathtub surrounded by a bizarre assortment of staged props. Two more murders with similarly bizarre touches soon follow, and before long, Mal and Vinn are frantically trying to decode a killer’s riddles before the carnage reaches their own inner circle.

This taut mystery is the fifth novel in Thomas J. Thorson’s Malcolm Winters Mystery series, but it can easily be enjoyed as an entry point. Fans of the series will be thrilled to see these two back at it, as the energy between them remains as charged and taut as ever (check out this clever shade thrown at the as-yet-unidentified killer: “What’s the point of making a statement if no one  can figure out what it is you’re trying to say?”). 

The lively banter between this duo is sure to draw you in, but it’s the peculiar details of this horrific murder case that will keep you reading to the end. 

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