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

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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