Opening a New Max Freeman Mystery

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It’s a delight to discover a new series of books, filled with great characters, believable, taut and challenging plots, satisfying conclusions, and, of course, the promise of more to come.

This fall, I discovered a new-to-me author and his first series. The first book, The Blue Edge of Midnight, was an Edgar Award winner for new author Jonathon King. I quickly finished it and the second in the series, A Visible Darkness. Then I moved on to other authors, all the while wishing I’d run out to get the next Max Freeman book.

A November trip to my local bookstore garnered the next two titles, Shadow Men and A Killing Night. They didn’t last long after I returned home; I devoured them in short order, and now the fifth in the series awaits me, Acts of Nature.

My favorite genre is the mystery, and among the many facets of the genre, the police procedural has always captured my attention. From Dell Shannon to Ed McBain, from John Sandford to Michael Connelly, from Kay Hooper to Laurie King, the cop on the job is a fascinating character.

That also goes for the private investigator on the case. Sue Grafton, Dianne Day, Laurie King, Janet Evanovich, Dennis Lehane, all feature investigators who don’t wear a uniform. And Jonathon King’s Max Freeman has rapidly become one of my favorite P.I.s.

A former cop, Max moves from the streets of Philadelphia to the marshes of Florida to escape his past. He lives secluded in a shack deep in the Everglades, using a canoe to come out for supplies and to visit his friend and attorney, Billy Manchester, another Philly-born transplant. The two men have built on the friendship begun by their mothers back in Philly: Max’s mom the wife of a cop, Billy’s a domestic.

Written in the first person, the Max Freeman books take you into his mind, following the action and logic of this born-to-investigate sleuth. It’s a fascinating trip, from cover to cover, through Max’s mind and the cases he is drawn into.

In the first book, Max’s past comes back to haunt him, thrusting the still hurting ex-cop into the thick of an investigation surrounding missing and murdered children. Max lives to fight another day, with a lot of help from his friends, old and new.

In A Visible Darkness, Billy asks Max to help investigate the deaths of well-respected, entrepreneurial women who are the backbone of the black community in Miami. Billy believes the seemingly natural deaths of the matriarchs are anything but, and as Max discovers, death comes in all guises.

Billy convinces Max to take yet another case in Shadow Men, after a young man hires the attorney to look into the deaths of a grandfather and two uncles working on the first road built through the Florida Everglades. Letters sent to the young man’s grandmother back in the 1920s lead Max and Billy into a decades-old crime with present-day consequences.

Another friend is the catalyst for A Killing Night, and Max must discover whether another ex-cop – a man who saved Max’s life on a Philadelphia night – is responsible for a string of murders of pretty bartenders.

From near the beginning of A Visible Darkness, I could tell Max wasn’t finished with being a cop, and I figured a P.I.’s license was in his future. That proves true in A Killing Night as Max goes to work for Billy as a full-time investigator. The job takes him away from his beloved river and isolated shack, while it opens up new avenues for Max.

I’m looking forward to Acts of Nature, and I may also pick up King’s standalone novel, Eye of Vengeance with its main character, a crime reporter as caught up in personal tragedy as he is in his work.

What new authors are now gracing your shelves? Any suggestions for this mystery buff?