Series: A Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler Novel: Book Two
Author: Russ Thomas
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Length: 383 Pages
Category: Murder Mystery
Rating: 4 Stars
At a Glance: As I was reading Nighthawking, I wasn’t sure I loved it as much as Firewatching. Turns out, in the end, I wasn’t quite as awed, overall, but those final shocks earned this one its stars.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: When a nighthawker on the hunt for antiquities instead uncovers the body of a foreign student, Detective Adam Tyler is pulled into a serpentine mystery of dangerous secrets, precious finds, and illegal dealings.
You are a trespasser. You are a thief. You are a Nighthawker.
Under the dark cover of night, a figure climbs over the wall of the Botanical Garden with a bag and a metal detector. It’s a dicey location in the populous city center, but they’re on the hunt–and while most of what they find will be worthless, it takes only one big reward to justify the risk. Only this time, the nighthawker unearths a body. . . .
Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler and his newly promoted protégé, Detective Constable Amina Rabbani, are officially in charge of Cold Case Reviews. But with shrinking budgets and manpower in the department, both are shunted onto the murder investigation–and when the victim is identified as a Chinese national from a wealthy family, in the UK on a student visa, the case takes on new urgency to prevent an international incident.
As Tyler and Rabbani dig further into the victim’s life, it’s becomes clear there’s more to her studies and relationships than meets the eye, and that the original investigation into her disappearance was shoddy at best. Meanwhile, someone else is watching these events . . . someone who knew the victim, and might hold the key to what happened the night she vanished.
Review: Author Russ Thomas didn’t exactly burst onto my reading radar last year with his debut novel, Firewatching. It’s more that I just so happened across the book, thought it sounded like something I might like, and then it slowly, deliberately, and methodically surprised me at almost every turn. Now, I can say much the same for Nighthawking.
Detective Sergeant Adam Tyler is the protagonist of this series, but he isn’t its hero. In fact, this installment of the series spends a fair amount of time following its other characters—some investigating a sudden spate of murders, some under suspicion of those murders—leaving Adam as much a role-player than the point-of-view character in the story. One thing is still clear, though; Adam’s skill set includes the seemingly effortless ability to piss people off—co-workers, suspects, personal acquaintances, he doesn’t discriminate—and, if I’m being honest, I can’t say with any sort of confidence that I even like him all that much. But he doesn’t seem the type who’s here to be liked either. He’s not the warm sort; he doesn’t draw readers in by being an open book; he is a habitual loner, and that wreaks havoc on all of his relationships.
I am, however, intrigued by him, which, in this case, is significant. DS Tyler pushes the envelope without much concern for the consequences, and he doesn’t seem to mind bending the rules if it means following every lead, or hunch, in an investigation. What makes him just that little bit different from the average fictional cop is that he isn’t infallible. He isn’t super-human, doesn’t fall on every clue like a bloodhound, and he has a healthy sense of fear, though that doesn’t necessarily keep him out of harm’s way. What I do find compelling about Adam, the thing that humanizes him, the thing that distracts him, is his growing obsession with the circumstances surrounding his father’s death. It’s not that Richard Tyler died, it’s how. While all the evidence points to suicide, the truth is much sketchier and sinister and complicated, and that’s the overarching mystery in this murder mystery series.
Nighthawking isn’t merely the title of this novel; it’s the basis for the story, nighthawking being the practice of metal detection and hunting for buried treasure in the dark of night, even if it means breaking the law to do it. The law dictates that discoveries of any historical significance or substantial value must be turned over to the authorities. The nighthawkers club run into their fair share of treasure in the story, not only committing a crime against the Crown, but they also become the focus of a murky and tangled murder investigation that only gets more twisted as the story goes on after a dead body is discovered in Sheffield’s Botanical Gardens.
The procedural, as was also the case in Firewatching, drives the investigation through a series of dead ends, and it leads readers into and out of a maze of characters who may or may not be a killer, and who may or may not be trying to make off with a fortune in rare Roman coins. The inclusion of what I’m going to call botanical crimes, for lack of a better term, complicates the investigation as well. Once again there were times I was completely wrong-footed and lost, wondering where the author was going with the storyline, only to have him then drop a detail that felt like a huge discovery . . . only to have that discovery lead to more questions than it provided answers. In the hands of any other author, I might have thought it poor plotting. In Russell Thomas’s hands, it only means there’s a method to the madness that drew me once again to the revelation of a killer I was not expecting. That, along with a poignant flection for one of the character’s storylines and the explosive ending, successfully baited the hook for me to continue with the series.
DS Adam Tyler has his work cut out for him now. If, that is, he even still has a job. One thing is certain, the deeper he digs into his father’s death, the more secrets he uncovers, the more critical the danger to him and anyone else who may inadvertently get in the way. There were losses in this book that hit me in unexpected ways, and one character in particular—Detective Constable Mina Rabbani—has leapt to the top of my favorite character in the cast for all the ways in which she carries the weight of having to work that much harder to prove herself, not only to herself but to her superiors. As I was reading Nighthawking, I wasn’t sure I loved it as much as Firewatching. Turns out, in the end, I wasn’t quite as awed, overall, but those final shocks earned this one its stars.
You can buy Nighthawking here:
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