House Standoff (Joe DeMarco #15), by Mike Lawson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mike Lawson, and Grove Atlantic for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Returning with the fifteenth book in the Joe DeMarco series, Mike Lawson brings something new to the discussion to keep readers on their toes. While DeMarco has made a name for himself as the ‘fixer’ for Speaker of the House of Representatives, he disputes the title and the sentiment that he is under anyone’s thumb. After learning that a friend was murdered in rural Wyoming, DeMarco makes his way out there to do some investigating of his own. What he discovers is not as open and shut as some would believe. A great piece with just the right amount of grit to fit the DeMarco norm. Recommended to those who enjoy a looser crime thriller with a handful of potential suspects.

Joe DeMarco’s earned quite the reputation as a fixer for John Maloney, current Speaker of the House of Representatives. While the two men have worked together in the past, DeMarco does not want his reputation tainted, as many see the senior politician as troublesome. With the Speaker out of the country on official business, DeMarco hopes to be able to get some golf in and relax, enjoying the quiet.

However, he learns of the death of a long-ago friend, Shannon Doyle, in rural Wyoming. Doyle is a popular author who was said to be researching her latest novel when she was murdered in a robbery. The local authorities were convinced it was a trucker who might have been passing through and wanted to score something to pawn. DeMarco is not buying it and chooses to leave DC to begin an investigation of his own.

Upon his arrival in Wyoming, DeMarco realises that things are a lot different than in DC, with a slower pace and a greater deference for the law. DeMarco approaches the local FBI to explain his presence, as well as some of his sentiments, though he is stonewalled before he gets too far. It would seem the local authorities have their own ideas and do not want anyone from outside poking their heads around.

Once DeMarco gains access to Doyle’s cloud account, he discovers a journal that she’s been keeping about the locals, something that tells quite the story about all of them. It gives him a better idea as to who might have been ‘colouring outside the lines’ and what motives they may have to want her quieted. Working the angles as best he can, DeMarco hones in on a few possibles, only to uncover a larger crime. The murder of a Black Lives Matter protestor seems to have been neutralised, though Shannon Doyle had some proof that could upend things quite substantially.

DeMarco is not one to leave stones unturned and he goes blazing in, pointing fingers where he feels the need. The murderer is in town, of that DeMarco is sure, but trying to choose the correct person is important. It’s sure to cost him something or other, but one can only hope his life’s not in jeopardy.

I’ve been reading and enjoying Mike Lawson’s work for a number of years, always finding the mix of crime and politics to my liking. While Joe DeMarco does come across as a man who is happy to blur the lines, his dedication to justice cannot be disputed. DeMarco takes matters into his own hands with this piece, but is happy to fight for what he feels is right as he salvages the reputation of a woman for whom he cared a great deal.

Joe DeMarco is the perfect protagonist for this piece, mixing his gritty determination with strong sleuthing skills. His background with familial connections to the Italian community does not hurt his reputation, though he does not want to rely on it, as he tries to live the clean life. With a little backstory on his ties to Shannon Doyle, DeMarco’s character evolves slightly in the fight for justice. His investigative skills are on display throughout this piece, showing that a little attention to detail can go a long way, even if it causes some with the local police more than a few headaches.

Lawson creates some strong supporting characters for his protagonist as well. Moving the piece out to Wyoming, there are few recurring characters in the book, save for a few who receive passing mention, allowing DeMarco to rule the roost as it were. Those who help create the Wyoming flavouring to the story emerge throughout as key characters and ones that add depth to the story. The reader will likely enjoy this ‘small town’ feel, with locals who wish only to stick to what they have always known and frown on outsiders who try to poke their noses where they do not belong.

The story was well presented and left much of the politics out of the mix. This is more a crime thriller than anything political, allowing Lawson to expand his writing style. There is a little of everything in the piece, with some much needed humour to offset some of the darker revelations that come to the surface. Quick chapters balance nicely with a narrative that moves at a clipped pace. The reader is sure to get into the middle of the story with ease and find themselves devouring the book in short order. Who knows what’s next for Lawson and how he will approach the series. It’s done well for now, though I wonder if DeMarco is pining for more golf time than having to smash heads to get answers.

Kudos, Mr. Lawson, for another winner. I am glad to have found the series and an eager to see what’s to come!

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful book summaries by strong reviewers.

https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/house-standoff/

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

House Privilege (Joe DeMarco #14), by Mike Lawson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mike Lawson, and Grove Atlantic for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A great fan of Mike Lawson’s work, I could not wait to get into this book, which features the great protagonist, Joe DeMarco. After slipping out of some troubling legal issues, Joe DeMarco is ready to work again. That being said, he’s not sure if he still has a job, as Speaker of the US House of Representatives, John Mahoney, has asked that he keep his distance during the congressional elections. After Mahoney wins his Boston seat again, DeMarco is brought back into the fold, the fact that he was revealed as a ‘bagman’ of no interest to Mahoney. DeMarco is given a very delicate task by his boss, serve as a proxy guardian to Cassie Russell, the goddaughter to Mahoney, at least until Mrs. Mahoney can return from a trip. Cassie’s parents were killed in a plane crash and the teenage girl is now the recipient to a sizeable, multi-billion dollar trust. Mahoney wants DeMarco to keep an eye on her and ensure everything is running smoothly with the trust for a couple of days. DeMarco begins his inquiries, only to get an odd feeling about the Russell lawyer and trust overseer, Erin Kelly. It would seem that Kelly feels she has control of it all and needs no assistance from DeMarco. After speaking to Cassie and the hired help, DeMarco is pushed in the direction that Kelly may not be all that she seems, which is only further solidified when an accountant who was performing an audit turns up dead in a convenience store shooting. Kelly is the niece of Boston mob boss, Mike Kelly, a man with few scruples when it comes to how he runs his business. When DeMarco feels that Erin may have been responsible for the plane crash, he takes his investigation into high gear and pushes some buttons to get a reaction. Meanwhile, Erin Kelly has turned to her uncle to kill Cassie and DeMarco, as they seem to be onto something they should not know. What follows is a game of cat and mouse that will see DeMarco up against ruthless killers and a woman whose greed for money trumps any sensible bone in her body. Lawson does well painting a vivid picture with this novel, sure to impress series fans. Recommended to those who love a good crime thriller, as well as the reader who has followed the progress of Joe DeMarco and Mike Lawson from the early days.

There’s nothing like a little Boston politicking mixed with the flavour of some mob justice to turn a book into something the reader is not able to put down. Lawson has done well with this, his fourteenth novel in the series. Joe DeMarco is still the gritty character he’s always been, with some wonderful pizzazz and a down to earth nature. He cannot hide from the past his father brought to Boston, but DeMarco is not one to sit idly by and let that shape him. Working with John Mahoney is never dull and this case is another example of that. The reader is able to see a softer and more parental side to Joe DeMarco, though no one can expect things to fall into place immediately. Others within the book find a way to make a mark and resonate throughout the narrative. This may not have all the grit one expects in a Lawson thriller, but there are certainly some brilliant parts and the characters surely shape that throughout. The story was strong and worked well throughout the different settings and situations that occur. The story never loses the momentum it has, while the criminal element keeps the reader guessing what will come next. Likely one of the best DeMarco thrillers I have read to date, the novel kept me intrigued until the final page turn.

Kudos, Mr. Lawson, for a great addition to the series I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for DeMarco.

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

House Arrest (Joe DeMarco #13), by Mike Lawson

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mike Lawson, and Grove Atlantic for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In a well-paced political thriller series, Mike Lawson has been able to develop his Joe DeMarco character quite effectively. This latest instalment of the series takes readers on a journey in which DeMarco may be in the middle of the excitement, but plays little role in its overall resolution. When a Republican congressman is gunned down in his office, the FBI swoops in to take control of the situation in short order. During routine preliminary interviews, Joe DeMarco offers up an alibi that appears solid, but has been completely fabricated for no known reason. An anonymous tip sends the Feds to DeMarco’s office, where they find a great deal of forensic evidence that points to DeMarco. He is detained and it would seem as though this is an open and shut case. However, DeMarco’s boss, current House Minority Leader John Maloney, is sure that someone is framing DeMarco to cover their tracks and pushes to have some of his contacts work diligently to uncover the truth. While DeMarco is in prison awaiting trial, he is targeted by a hardcore Mexican gang who seek to eliminate him. With no rational reason for this, it may be part of a larger scheme. Meanwhile, a powerful businessman stands in the shadows, saying little, but pulling strings in such a way that no one can tie anything to him. With the mid-term elections on the horizon, DeMarco’s fate hangs in the balance, if he can live long enough to see it through, forcing Maloney to pull out all the stops at arm’s length to get his fixer from being eliminated. Another great novel by Lawson that entertains series fans as much as those just discovering the author. Recommended to those who have journeyed along with Joe DeMarco from the start, though this novel could attract many one-off fans, as it works as a standalone.

I always await the latest releases by Lawson, as they fit nicely into my reading schedule and can usually be devoured in short order. The mix of politics and a mystery with limited time for resolution always has me enjoying the story and much of the development throughout. Joe DeMarco has evolved a great deal through the process, though the series fan will see that he is coming to the end of his illustrious career, not entirely because of his lack of usefulness. Working on vague and undisclosed projects for his boss, DeMarco has been able to keep a low profile and work effectively. His development throughout the series is shown in this novel with crumbs of backstory tossed around, as well as some personal angst as he awaits someone else to save him, a concept unknown to the ‘fixer’. The other key characters help propel the story forward, making their regular appearances within the narrative. The shift away from being helpers in the cause to the solution to DeMarco’s woes is an interesting twist and adds new layers to the story. The overall presentation is fast-paced and keeps the reader wondering how the cat and mouse game will work, with the killer’s identity fairly certain from the get-go. However, it is the pulling together of pieces and the results of the election that could truly shape the book progress and impact any further novels in the series. Lawson has delivered a dandy here, not to be missed by those who have followed DeMarco from the beginning all those years ago!

Kudos, Mr. Lawson, for another great story. I am eager to see how you will take that ending and make it work moving forward.

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

House Witness (Joe DeMarco #12), by Mike Lawson

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Mike Lawson, Grove Atlantic and Atlantic Monthly Press for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

As a long-time fan of Mike Lawson’s work, I was pleased to get my hands on an advance copy of his latest Joe DeMarco novel. After House Minority Leader John Mahoney receives word that someone close to him has been murdered, his first call is to Joe DeMarco, his fixer of sorts. Understanding the nuances of the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, Mahoney insists that DeMarco offer his services to assist in any way possible. The case looks fairly cut and dry, but those are the ones that tend to be the most problematic if they reach trial. The killer comes from family money that will stop at nothing to erase events in any way possible. When the defence attorney places a call, seeking some assistance in the matter of trying to turn an easy conviction into something far less straightforward, there is hesitation. However, for the right price, things may turn their way. Enter Ella Fields, who has made it her business to work alongside her husband to help dissuade or disappear key witnesses from what they saw, thereby toppling the proverbial apple cart. As things begin to get a little shaky in Manhattan, DeMarco learns of the possibility that someone like Fields could be out destroying easy cases. He vows to track her down, travelling across the United States to learn more about a number of cases, always two steps behind. However, with the trial about ready to begin, DeMarco may have stumbled upon something, though even he is not sure if it will be enough. Lawson continues paving the way for DeMarco to remain at the top if his game, while pulling readers into the middle of this quick-paced series. Fans of Joe DeMarco and those who like crime thrillers that do not slow down will surely enjoy this piece and the entire collection.

It is hard to believe that this is the twelfth instalment of the Joe Demarco series, though Mike Lawson has a wonderful handle on things. What began as a strong political thriller has turned more into something criminal and loosely legal in nature, but the reader is not forced to compromise too much. DeMarco’s backstory is well known to series vets, but is not lost here in the crumbs left for new readers. His past comes full circle as he is forced to come to terms with the murder of his cousin, though there are even larger shocks for the attentive reader. DeMarco has grit and determination, as well as charm and some rough exterior that usually garners him the results he needs. It is some of the other characters, particularly Ella Fields, that steal the show in this novel, offering up both a thorough backstory and a wonderful collection of traits as the story’s narrative heats up. The reader is left little time to ponder what’s been read, too busy are they with trying to see where the next part of the cat and mouse game will go. The story itself is well crafted in a legal thriller genre that I felt worked more effectively as a one of the crime variety. DeMarco rushes to fill the gaps while Fields will not go down without a fight, eluding capture throughout. Newer fans of the series, or first timers in general, will not be aware of the transformation of the series. If I had to offer up one area that I disliked, it is that political intrigue and centrality are gone, as though Lawson feels that he has lost that avenue. As I read, I could not help but ask myself, ‘Will DeMarco play more than a passing role in this story?’ for much of the early narrative, though Lawson did bring things back before too long. I yearn for a political thriller, if there is someone that Lawson has left in him, though I will not complain too much, as this story was written in a masterful style and one sure to pull the reader in from the early chapters.

Kudos, Mr. Lawson, for another success. I always look forward to what you have to offer and hope that you’ll keep writing.

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