Book Review: Death’s Way, A John Santana Novel

I won an autographed ARC of Christopher Valen’s latest John Santa thriller, Death’s Way. I had a pile of to-be-reads ahead of his book. Had I have known it was going to be as engrossing and compelling, I would have moved it to the top of the heap, for sure. For the longest time –at least the last few years– I have buried myself in zombie novels. And I love them, but I had forgotten how much I enjoy police procedural thrillers. DeathsWay-Cover-Front150w-revDeath’s Way is like an John Sanford novel but with more depth and description. But I am getting ahead of my own review.

When a Catalina Diaz is found dead in a hotel room, it looks like an ugly suicide. Everything points in that direction. When Homicide Detective John Santana and his partner, Kacie Hawkins start digging, a suicide doesn’t add up. Diaz, a high-end escort, has her purse in the room, but no cell phone, no car or house keys. That is one of the first clues that indicates foul play.

The police chief wants the case rapped up fast. He wants the death ruled a suicide, and for the detectives to move on to other pressing matters. Santana is not so easily swayed. A business card left inside Diaz’s purse is what leads Santana and Hawkins on a journey that connects escorts, and fishing trips, to drugs and dangerous gangs. Their are doctors and vicious cartels mixed in. And worse, more deaths.

What seems like a splash of the supernatural even gets added into the pot. All that is left is for Santana and Hawkins to sift through circumstantial evidence, to keep at the door-knocking, and pray they find some answers –some evidence that will convince their bosses that suicide and accidental deaths are not what it is all about.
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In a desperate search for answers to help solve a murder, Santana is also forced to balance his job with the relationship he has with his girlfriend. Trouble is, like most men, he is not great at opening up and letting others in. The ultimatum is clear, start sharing, or there will be nothing to salvage. His silence isn’t at all about being macho, though –it is about protection. Only, at some point, there has to be compromise, Santana just isn’t sure he is ready to move forward.

Death’s Way is a memorizing read. The narrative is complete and descriptive, poetic and well-painted. The characters are perfectly drawn, and filled in, and fleshed out. Flaws and all. Valen weaves a tale that is top notch crime novel material. The sad thing is this guy has been writing books for a while and I’d never heard of him. The great thing is, I know who he is now, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into more of his work! If you like cop books, authors like John Sanford and Ed McBain, then you have got to give Christopher Valen a go. You won’t be disappointed!

Phillip Tomasso
The author of Blood River and The Vaccination Trilogy

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