Check out our previous review of Back on Murder, J. Mark Bertrand’s first Roland March mystery. For a limited time this classic murder mystery is available as an eBook at both Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.
The second Roland March Mystery, Pattern of Wounds, published by Bethany House and written by J. Mark Bertrand, reminds us of our first go-round with Houston Police Department Detective Roland March in Back on Murder. He’s cynical, can be abrasive, and he’s not about to submit to the perfect by-the-book investigations regardless of the reprimands involved when following his gut.
In a strict and exhaustive timetable approaching the Christmas holiday, we feel the fatigue and hear the silent clock ticking away the hours of chasing down leads, suspects, and the disappointments for a crime which eventually erupts into a second murder.
When a posed and carved up dead girl turns up by the pool of a female professor’s home where she was a boarder, there’s something eerily familiar about how she’s carefully positioned. When it hits March why he recognizes the layout of the crime, no one is willing to see the similarity. Except someone who is almost as familiar with the old crime as he is.
In the meantime the young Christian couple, Carter and Gina who were introduced in Back on Murder and who now rent March and Charlotte’s attached apartment, tentatively announces they are having a baby, knowing it could be difficult news since March and Charlotte lost their little daughter in a car crash. The news dredges up instant pain for March and multiple senses of loss. Along with this sorrow we learn more of March’s family background and none of it adds up to comfort and joy.
Roland March is an embittered, dedicated perpetrator of justice who holds a grudge the size of Texas against a God he can’t understand, refusing to try even when some things smack him in the face. Mark captures his character, unflinching at the exposure of his sometimes cold heart and his sometimes uncomfortable devotion to his wife. The detective is complex with multi-layered feelings even he can’t always rectify. As we learn more about his personal history in this second leg of the March journey, we can’t help but think much of his demeanor is a result of deep hurts he’s unwilling to turn loose. They’re as much a part of who he is as the brusque sarcasm, sharp wit, and unorthodox investigative hunches and practices.
Pattern of Wounds not only presents the reader with a great cover and a title full of innuendo, the story takes you step by step through the frustrations of pursuing the wrong suspects, the interference of a misled author, the deceptive efforts of an incarcerated murderer, and the histrionics of a deputy sheriff bent on attaching a serial killer to March’s murder victim.
Even more “noir” than its predecessor, Pattern of Wounds by J. Mark Bertrand leaves us uneasy in the final scene but ultimately fulfilled for having read a so well-written and strangely touching story filled with dog-legged subplots and a more intimate look at Roland March
Reviewed by Nicole Petrino-Salter
Publisher: Bethany House
Publication Date: July 2011
This entry was posted on Friday, July 15th, 2011 at 8:40 am and is filed under Book Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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