Head Shot (Marko Zorn #2), by Otho Eskin

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Otho Eskin, and Oceanview Publishing for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Otho Eskin returns with the second in his Marko Zorn crime thriller series. Taking a more international approach to this novel, Eskin provides moments of political intrigue and international coup plotting, while using a local murder to tie things to Washington, D.C.. Hoping for the same grittiness I found in the series debut, I was, at times, left feeling as though this was a ‘cozy murder mystery’, based on the narrative and ongoing dialogue. However, into the latter portion of the book, Eskin found his stride and turned on the proverbial engines to race towards the finish line, using a coup attempt to bring the story home. Entertaining and easy to read, Otho Eskin keeps readers turning pages.

Things do not begin well for Metro D.C. Homicide Detective Marko Zorn. A shot at him while outside his home leaves Zorn wondering who he’s upset now. Summoned to meet a man best left in the shadows, Zorn is tasked with protecting the new Montenegrin prime minister, while being reminded of some covert business he recently completed on a side trip to Chicago. Zorn is ready to help serve as part of the security detail, as long as it does not interfere with his day job.

Speaking of that, Detective Zorn is called to the scene of a possible suicide by gunshot, though many believe the dead actress may have been murdered moments after exiting the stage during a recent play. Zorn finds himself shocked to see that the actress is a woman with whom he has a past, though he seeks to shelve those feelings and get to the bottom what’s happened. This pulls him into the middle of a ‘dramatic’ world, where enemies are plentiful and the competition is ruthless.

While trying to focus on the murder investigation, the prime minister arrives in town and makes her way to the embassy. There, Zorn seeks to make introductions and lay the groundwork for how things will go during the state visit. He’s doubly tasked with protecting the international guest by a senior member of the US Administration, showing Zorn that people mean business.

When additional bodies close to the Montenegrin leader turn up strangled, Zorn realises that trouble is lurking. Things get much worse as attempts on his own life begin to occur in rapid succession. Zorn will have to use all his resources to locate the hired assassin, ensuring he neutralises them before more blood is spilled on US soil. All the while, the dead actress turns out to be part of a larger conspiracy, with Zorn in the crosshairs. A chilling story that, at times, proves to be as gritty as the series debut.

My recent discovery of Otho Eskin has proven fruitful as I found myself enthralled with this series. I devoured both books Eskin has published and am eager to see what is to come. Eskin builds on the Marko Zorn character, a gritty detective with a number of skeletons in his closet, adding more depth to the protagonist’s abilities and personality. Even with some shaky narrative moments, I am still eager to see what is to come for this rule-breaking cop!

Marko Zorn is still complex, working both sides of the law as he remains calm and collected throughout. There are some curious aspects to his backstory, revealed through some personal memories, as well as a strong focus on the law and how to protect those around him. Zorn is always ready to use his determination as a cop to get answers, even as it puts him in serious danger. While not a spy, he knows how to rub elbows with those lurking deep in the shadows and finds himself the target of the most ruthless international individuals. There’s a great deal more to discover about this man and how deep his connections go!

Otho Eskin proves himself a master storyteller, as I have come to see with these first two books. His debut was both gritty and full of mystery, with this one following suit, though it teetered on becoming a cozy mystery for a time. The narrative had moments of greatness, particularly when tackling the international angle, offset by some hokey moments at the theatre during the early stages of the plot’s development. The darker side of Marko Zorn is surely on display yet again, as some of his past handlings of events for nefarious people comes to light in passing. The reader remains invested in the process with some short chapters that tease major plot twists. International flavouring and layers of deception kept the story balanced and pushed me to keep reading well into the evening. I’m interested to see what’s next and how Otho Eskin will present it to readers.

Kudos, Mr. Eskin, for another strong piece of writing. Your experiences shine on every page.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons