(Reviewed by Chuck Barksdale AUG 25, 2007)
"His face is still there, in my head, in my dreams, in my thoughts forever. Worst part about it was killing him wasn’t really my fault. I’ve concluded that he wanted to die, that he made me his vehicle in an elaborate suicide plot. Maybe I’ve done this to make the whole thing easier for me to live with. I don’t know. I just know that I’ll never be the same, forever changed by becoming a killer. I’m sure countless men have gone through the same thing, and I am not implying that my situation is different, or even in any way special. I just know that it is my situation, and only someone who has been through it can understand. I haven’t really found anyone that fits that bill, at least anyone who I can talk to. Plenty of guys on the job have killed in the line of duty, and I know a few of them personally, but they don’t seem to want to talk about it, instead either shutting themselves off completely or doing their talking behind the psychologist’s closed door."
Death Knell, John Misak’s third book about 35-year old New York City homicide police detective John Keegan, is an extremely well written and enjoyable novel. Misak is probably not all that well known but should be once more people read this book. When drug-dealer “K-Drugs” Kostya Volkyv is found dead, Keegan is asked by his boss, Inspector Geiger, to investigate. Geiger asks Keegan to work again with Rick Cahill who had been recently limited to paperwork while recovering from the recent death of his wife. Cahill and Keegan have a history, but they both appear willing to put it behind them, especially for Cahill who is tiring of just doing paperwork.
Since K-Drugs is a drug dealer, Keegan and Cahill consult with Karl Lavin, a vice detective. Some of Misak’s humor as well as key information on Keegan and Lavin are evident in this excerpt:
Karl Lavin was an idiot. Understand I mean this in the best of ways, but even he would never dispute it. Most guys get assigned to Vice against their will, and the ones who choose that beat are usually crankheads themselves, looking for easy scores. Lavin had gotten assigned, and after doing a few years, he was offered several times an opportunity to get out. He refused every time. That’s why I said he was an imbecile. At least, that’s what all the other guys said. I knew better. I knew why he stayed, what drove him. He hated pedophiles and drug dealers. With a passion. I respected that, because I did too. Nothing worse than some sick bastard who preys on children. They should all be burned. Better yet, Karl Lavin should catch them all. He’d make them wish they burned.
Lavin gives some help with the investigation as do several others, including Pauline McCrory, an attractive woman that works in the records department, who is also a potential love interest of Keegan. McCrory appears willing to return the affection to the comfortably single Keegan and tries to help Keegan not only in the case but when he must deal with the loss of his father to a heart attack.
As Keegan, Cahill and Lavin work the case, they find connections of K-Drugs with the Russian mob which leads them to an apparent link to a Central Park murder of the daughter of Boris Yigevny, a famous Russian scientist. Keegan is faced with many tough situations while dealing with various members of the mob, possible unscrupulous policemen and his personal tragedies as he works to find the murderer of a person most people question is worth it.
As shown in the excerpts, Misak uses the first person to get a full appreciation of Keegan’s thoughts and to understand why he does and acts the way he does. I enjoy this first person perspective but this may be too much for some readers.
Although I would have preferred to have read Soft Case and All in a Row, the first John Keegan books by Misak, especially to better understand the history and relationship of Keegan and his partner Rick Cahill, this book certainly stands on its own. Of course finding these books is not all that easy, although both are available on Misak’s website and All in a Row has recently been reprinted and is easily available through Amazon and other online sources.
John Misak is obviously not a well-known author and I was not familiar with anything he had written (now four novels) until I received Death Knell to read. I have had the opportunity in the past to read and review other authors that were not that well known with mixed results. Death Knell shines above all of these and is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in the past few years. Misak creates very realistic and likeable characters. The dialogue between Keegan and other policemen is not only funny, but appears typical of the joking way policemen (or just men) talk to each other. Misak also does a good job of presenting the difficulty and struggles that Keegan has in relationships with his family and friends.
The book does have a few annoying features. The print is a bit small (especially for my 50-year old eyes) but I did eventually get used to it. The typos and grammatical mistakes were a bit harder to overlook. Some of the grammatical mistakes might be intentional since the book is told in the first person, but I hate the common error of using “I” when it should be “me.” (Please say “between you and me.”) Also, “alright” is not a word, although apparently it has gained some acceptance. (Already and altogether are words but "all right" is the correct spelling.) Of course in the end, I enjoyed reading this book so much that these are really just annoying little nits and hopefully with this entertaining writing, Misak will get a bigger publisher with better proof-readers.
- Amazon readers rating: from 2 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
John Keegan, NYPD:
Private Investigator Darren Camponi :
- Time Stand Still (August 2002; May 2007)
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About the Author:
John Misak was born and raised in town called Baldwin on Long Island, New York. He is the son of a former NYPD detective and private investigator. He studied Creative Writing at Hofstra University, and received his Masters in Writing at Queens College.
John is a veteran of PC Games journalism; his work has been published in various newspapers, magazines, and web sites.
He still lives on Long Island and works at the family billiard hall when not writing.