An atmospheric murder mystery/thriller that I tore through in four sittings, Red Tide At Morning by Steven Montano (@Daezarkian) should come with a warning: readers are apt to lose track of what’s going on around them once they pick it up. This review is based on a copy provided by the author for that purpose.
Set on an island in the San Juan Islands group between Canada and the state of Washington, the story opens with former Philadelphia police detective Malcolm Stone surveying the scene of a brutal murder in a public park. Malcolm hasn’t been a cop for years, since before returning to Raven’s Island after his partner and closest friend was killed on the job, an event that is still an open wound in his psyche.
On cases like the murdered girl in the park, the understaffed and overmatched police chief turns to Malcolm for help, hiring him as a consultant. But Mal hasn’t worked a homicide since his friend was killed in Philly, and he isn’t sure he’s up to the task emotionally. Then a second dead girl is found nearby —clearly the victim of prolonged torture — and Malcolm realizes his experience may be the only way a twisted killer is stopped.
Enlisting the help of Lara Richter, the sister of his murdered partner who’s tech-savvy but emotionally closed off, Malcolm delves into an investigation that has him dabbling in island politics and crossing paths with a drug lord who has big plans for the island. No spoilers, but there are more than a couple red herrings and plot twists along the path to enlightenment. The conclusion took me by surprise.
I’ve read and enjoyed the author’s dark fantasy/sci-fi works, so I knew he could spin a complex and compelling tale. Mr. Montano’s prose is wonderfully descriptive, and he has a way of painting scenes using words that I admire. It probably didn’t hurt that one of my reading sessions came during a prolonged power outage during what the local news has called the “worst summer storm in Western Washington history.” Swiping through pages on my Kindle as the rain pelted against the windows and the wind gusted, it wasn’t hard to imagine Malcom Stone out in the same storm, chasing down leads.
Whether this is the first of a new series featuring Malcolm and Lara or simply a one-off foray into the thriller genre, Red Tide At Morning is a ripping read. For more on the author and his writing, visit his website.