Saturday, 15 March 2014

Book Review: Tarnished Heroes by David Kessler

Tarnished Heroes
by David Kessler
4 Stars
Kindle Re-issue


Young policeman Neil Douglas rushes to the aid of a woman who has been stabbed on Hampstead Heath. Seeing a man standing over the body, he lashes out with his baton, striking the man in the head. There is just one problem: the man didn’t attack the woman; he was coming to her aid. Neil has just put an innocent man in a life-threatening coma. And the killer is still on the loose.

Supended from duty and tormented by guilt, he is determined to track down the escaped killer. All the while he is taunted over the airwaves by a pretty but ruthless American phone-in show presenter.

But who was the dead woman? Who is trying to hide every trace of her past? And does her case have anything to do with another murder case five years ago in which the “innocent man” whom Neil struck was the prime suspect? Neil is determined to find the answers to these questions – even if it costs him his life.


Late at night, coming to the scene after a woman is attacked on Hampstead Heath, young policeman Niel Douglas makes a split-second deicsion that will forever haunt him. Discovering a man over the woman's body brandishing a tree branch, Neil attacks him with his baton and sends the man into a coma. But the man wasn't the attacker, he had been coming to the woman's aid.

When the man's identity is revealed as Martin Roebuck, a murder suspect in a different case a few years ago, Neil feels there is more going on than meets the eye. Suspended from duty, hounded by the press and a talk-show radio host, Neil is determined to find out what is going on even if it meand losing his job or his life. But the more he investigates the more he realises that everyone has something to hide and they don't want Neil raking over old coals, especially the real killer.

Now, although a crime novel with a mystery to solve, this seems more of a psychological drama and a character study. The pace is not as frantic with Mr. Kessler's later thrillers, but that isn't to say nothing happens or that it's slow moving. And one thing I have to applaud the author for – we get glimpses into the mind of the killer but without revealing the killer's identity before Neil finds out. I hate it when books let the reader find out more than the investigators do. Here, the reader feels as if they are investigating along with Neil and it really works.

As with all stories, it can stand or fall with its characters and here we have a very sympathetic protoganist, even if he has done some wrong things. You really get to know Neil as the book progresses. And the twists! There were a couple near the end that I didn't guess and they completely floored me, but all of them had little hints here and there earlier in the book so the reader doesn't feel cheated.

The romance between Neil and Beth, the aforementioned radio host, just didn't seem to gel with me, but I can't really say why. It did add an extra layer of danger, with Neil now not only worried about himself but Beth and her young son as well. I loved the part when Neil was telling little Stevie a bedtime story about a knight slaying a dragon who'd been terrorising a village, but when he returned to the village, they all said the dragon wasn't killed. Neil explained to Stevie that we all carried our own dragons, whether it was fear, pride, greed and we can only slay our ownd dragon's, not anyone else's.

A very engrossing read.


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