The Gone Dead Train by Lisa Turner

This was a solid three and a half star read. The pros definitely outweigh the cons but I will start by outlining the cons first because there are only a few and they aren’t that serious. The first would be that there are some cliché’s which is not surprising given that the genre is a police procedural/action/thriller type of book. The lead character is ruggedly good looking and heart broken and his friendships are often down on their luck local characters.

The second con is that as usual, the cop lives in the most unlikely situation one can imagine. He of course got a great bargain on a barge, anchored in the Mississippi River in Memphis. Formerly a restaurant, it is now his home and has all the mod cons. It always makes me laugh that these cops have these great lofts or interesting homes. All the ones I know live in regular houses.

The last con, which is only a con for me, is that this book is part of a series. All of a sudden, every book I seem to pick up is part of a set. This book can easily be read as a stand-alone, but throughout the story, things that previously happened were mentioned. There was enough detail that this did not distract from the story at all but it can be disquieting for readers who feel the pressure to read the whole set.

Now for the great stuff. There are a lot of interesting pieces to the mystery. The first is that a couple of old time bluesmen, on the run from New Orleans, end up in Memphis hiding out. Both of these men, it turns out, are in fear for their lives because they believe they have a curse on them from a woman practicing Santeria.

There was a description ascribed to the book as being a “supernatural” crime thriller. The Santeria aspect does not play out as a supernatural theme or motivator in the story. It is a part of the criminal activity and it is explained very well from several different points of view. It certainly adds to the story.

The main character, Billy Able, is coming off a nine month leave of absence and is skating on thin ice as he involves himself in investigations in which he is not supposed to be involved. There is also a female character, currently a patrolmen, who wants to become a detective.  She admires Billy and together they make a good team.

Memphis is a great place for the story to take place. Much of it centers in and around Beale Street because of the blues aspects of the story. Memphis has so much to offer as a setting. I remembered how much I enjoyed it in Grisham’s The Firm. The sights, the smells and the sounds jump off the page and bring you right to the city. The only far-fetched aspect was the place the cop lived which I have expounded on already. Unrealistic, but fun.

The story has a lot of moving parts. There is the murder of the bluesmen, the murder of an ex-major league catcher with mental health problems, a reformed pimp and madame from New Orleans, a Jamaican con artist, an evangelical preacher with a sordid past and a mystery going all the way back to the Civil Rights rallies in Memphis and Dr. Martin Luther King’s killing at the Lorraine Motel.

This was a thoroughly entertaining read and I enjoyed it. I have no problem recommending this book to others with an interest in a good crime novel.




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