Book Review: SPEAK FOR THE DEAD, by Christopher Valen

I have been a fan of the John Santana crime novels from the beginning, as well as an immediate fan of Christopher Valen. His writing style, characters, and tight-knitted plots made becoming a fan simple, natural. I mean, Valen puts everything a mystery reader wants inside every one of his novels. Intrigue, suspense, a splash of romance, bad guys, red herrings, plot twists . . . Are starting to see what I’m saying here?

SPEAK FOR THE DEAD is the latest John Santana novel in the series. Best part about these books, if you didn’t start at Book 1, it is okay. Each novel is a complete stand-alone. Sure, there is a little more insight if your journey began at the beginning, and I suggest reading the all, recommend it, actually, but if you start your experience with Valen’s latest you won’t be disappointed.

Two women are found dead, murdered. The crimes, for all intent and purposes, look like one killer committed both heinous acts. The corpses were discovered in caves, in shallow graves, along the banks of the Mississippi. Since there is nothing obvious linking the two women to one another, the police fear this may be the start of a serial killing spree.

Detective John Santana begins mapping out the dots and drawing lines to connect as much information from the victims as possible. One of the things standing out has to do with a recent airplane crash. Hundreds were killed. And while early reports indicated pilot error, the plane was so off-course suspicion abounded. Thing that made that crash relevant to the murders? One of the victims was involved with the investigation into the reasons behind the downed plane.

The F.B.I. is involved in the airplane investigation, and as Santana’s investigation leads him across imaginary borders onto their playing field, the tension, suspense, and danger gets ramped up. Is there a conspiracy involved?

When Santana becomes the main suspect in an associated murder, the detective is on his own. He needs to clear his name, as well as find out who is responsible for the actual crime. The clues lead him in circles, where key players are near-impossible to nail down as the ones involved. With tremendous push-back from the bureau, Santana refuses to have his hands tied behind his back.

The closer he gets to the truth, the more deadly the game becomes. The nagging question: Will this be the last we see of Detective John Santana?

Man, I sure hope not.

SPEAK FOR THE DEAD is solid. Quick, tight, and compelling. This latest novel is an epic installment into the already gripping series. Kudos to Christopher Valen for keeping me guessing right up until the very end!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of Assassin’s Promise
and Damn the Dead

About the author

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