The Edgar Award-nominated Buck Schatz series of mysteries featuring a retired cop in Memphis continues with Running Out of Road.
“Daniel Friedman has done it again—only better.”— Michael Sears, bestselling author of Black Fridays
Once, Detective Buck Schatz patrolled the city of Memphis, chasing down robbers and killers with a blackjack truncheon and a .357. But he’s been retired for decades. Now he’s frail and demented, and Rose, his wife of 72 years, is ill and facing a choice about her health care that Buck is terrified to even consider. The future looks short and bleak, and Buck’s only escape is into the past.
But Buck’s past is under attack as well. After 35 years on death row, convicted serial killer Chester March finally has an execution date. Chester is the oldest condemned man in the United States, and his case has attracted the attention of NPR producer Carlos Watkins, who believes Chester was convicted on the strength of a coerced confession. Chester’s conviction is the capstone on Buck’s storied career, and, to save Chester’s life, Watkins is prepared to tear down Buck’s reputation and legacy.
Oh, ARGH! What DO I get myself into? Absolutely NOT what I expected when I requested a copy of this book. It’s a crime novel, right? And about a retired cop from Memphis. I might have expected a few of his most memorable busts. But no, what I get is a novel with multiple major societal issues, hot buttons, and book club fodder.
But where do I start? This is not your typical crime novel as noted above. No–far from it. Protagonist Baruch “Buck” Schatz has been diagnosed with dementia. He’s almost 90. He uses a walker to get around and getting up to cross his now tiny assisted living apartment takes all his energy. His wife of 72 years, Rose, has recently been diagnosed with cancer. Can this get any worse? Oh, yes–trust me.
The novel is structured atypically. Buck gets a call from Carlos Watkins, a reporter doing an NPR series regarding one of Buck’s infamous busts from the old days. The perp is beyond despicable, but now after 35 years on death row, his letters have finally garnered attention and Carlos wants to hear Buck’s side of the story shortly before he is to be executed and now also of advanced years.
Now it gets complex, complicated running a narrative unique in POV from Carlos’ transcripts of the American Justice series to Buck in the current year of 2011, and reverting to the time when Chester March first comes to Buck’s attention–1955. Crime fighting was different then–he busted some heads. His grandson, and newly graduated law school student studying for the bar, advised Buck from the beginning not to talk to Carlos. It became evident Carlos had an agenda.
“…the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
But you are literally getting multiple sides of the story, a news event that observers documented and saved. It’s all in the files. Schatz was a decorated police detective. Tough, Jewish, driven. He would get a confession–one way or the other. March from privileged white landowners who maintained the confession was beaten out of him by Schatz. There is the fervent man promoting strong arguments against the death penalty as well as Carlos running his NPR series, phone interviews with March pleading the circumstance of his confession and arguments against his impending sentence date.
Character-driven, each one passionate about his/her side promoting their program in eloquent discourse. And there are many. Issues of racism, discrimination, ageism, capital punishment, long-married couples and their failing health. Who will leave the other first? Buck rages against the decisions that must be faced.
The storyline progresses from intense to urgent as the full picture begins to converge. It’s ethos and pathos. Hope and hopeless. A hardboiled novel, no punches pulled, the one issue of age and declining health sad and hitting rather too close to home. There are some graphic descriptions tied to March’s crimes and profane language. I did, however, enjoy Buck’s appreciation for America’s early “muscle” cars–an upbeat note in an otherwise dark, noir account pocked with soap-box oratory, my only quibble.
I received this digital ebook from the publisher and NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read and review this book. It was written exceptionally well–brilliant–I might say and I hated what it said. The author’s writing style is unique, infectious and it bites early and hard–impossible to put down. Book 3, no problem, can be read as a standalone. Would I read another? Sure–assuming present circumstance could stand the hard truth at the time.
Genre: Alzheimer’s Disease, Jewish Literature & Fiction
Publisher: Minotaur Books
- ASIN: B07S6J67SS
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five of Five Stars
The Author: Daniel Friedman is a graduate of the University of Maryland and the NYU School of Law. His debut novel, Don’t Ever Get Old, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. He lives in New York City.
©2020 V Williams