The Black Minute is the third book I have read by award winning author, Christopher Valen. To start this off, I want to say that I am thoroughly enjoying the John Santana novels. If you are looking for police procedural books that are crisp and tightly knit thrillers, there really is no reason not to give Valen’s work a try.
The Black Minute is actually the 2nd book in the series (I read the 5th first, the 1st second, and the 2nd third, but whatever). The back cover synopsis reads:
When the body of a young, Hmong woman is found on Harriet Island near the Mississippi River, it appears to be a simple case of murder and revenge. But what begins as a routine investigation soon becomes something far more sinister. Paired with a Hmong partner he’s not sure he can trust, and attracted to a beautiful woman with dark secrets, Homicide Detective John Santana is drawn into a maze of political intrigue and broken promises made during the Vietnam War. Trusting his instincts and determined to find justice, Santana uncovers a web of lies and a terrifying plot that could lead to a national disaster––and to his own death.
Here is the best part. Aside from John Santana, the main character, I love seeing the secondary characters over and over. How can you beat a medical examiner like Reiko Tananbe and the involved conversation of sex between blowflies? The police commander, Rita Gamboni is more than likeable, she is adorable. She still cares for Santana, and he cares for her. It is tough when lives travel down different paths, and there is not always a way to make things work. Diana Lee is new to the mix, partnered with Santana. She is someone I hope to see more of in future mysteries.
I believe I have mentioned this before, in fact I know I have, bit it is worth re-mentioning. The books by Valen remind me of John Sanford’s Prey novels, the writing is equally as impressive, the plots just as complex, and the characters as well-developed. The Black Minute contains multiple murders that may or may not be tied together; there is a potential international plot involving a coup in Laos; political corruption is in the cross-hairs, but exposing, and following through is not always simple; drugs and arch enemy street gangs add spice to the story, and a sociopath. All of that is packed into The Black Minute.
Thankfully, Valen’s writing is clear and concise. The characters are so real you see them in your head. The narrative paints a vivid picture that plays like a movie inside your mind. The tension builds continuously, while the action and suspense comes to an explosive climax.
There are few authors I would list as favorites. Christopher Valen is among that short list. The Black Minute is a hard to put down thriller. I look forward to reading the remaining two novels in the series!