Ed Gorman was kind enough to send me an Advanced Reading Copy of his latest mystery, Bad Moon Rising. The Postal Service was kind enough to deliver it during the Hurrican Irene debacle. A sincere thanks to both.
Bad Moon Rising is the ninth in his Sam McCain series, which started in 1999 with The Day the Music Died. McCain is a struggling lawyer in the 1960s, taking the clients nobody else wants in the small city of Black River Falls, Iowa. To supplement his income, he also works as a private investigator for Judge Whitney, a nationally connected, old money character who has lost her political grip to the city. Whitney uses McCain's abilities to provide comeuppance to the new powers in Black River Falls -- especially Cliffie Sykes, the incompetent local police chief.
Bad Moon Rising takes place in 1968, a time when young men are dying in a war that McCain does not believe in and a time when protesters are getting their licks at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. It's also a summer of love and of drugs. To the dismay of many, a commune has opened in town and the idea of drug-addled, sex-crazed, Satanist hippies does not set well with Reverend Cartwright, the town's self-rightous and money-grubbing, rabble-rousing minister.
The daughter of one of the community's richest families is found bludgeoned in a barn at the commune. The suspect, an unstable veteran escapes from McCain as he tries to talk to him. Other bodies begin to pile up and McCain, once again, finds himself one of the least popular men in Black River Falls.
Gorman paints his characters with sympathy and understanding as they move through a poignant and troubling time in our history. Gorman has been called the Poet of Dark Suspense and his focus has always been spot-on about the human condition. In the end, as always, it is human foibles which lie at the bottom of the mystery. And it is at the final two pages of the book that the full meaning of its title slams the reader in the face.
A warm, literate, and thoroughly entertaining book. It's hard to expect anything else from a master like Ed Gorman. Highly recommended.
(Bad Moon Rising by Ed Gorman. Pegasus Crime, 2011, $25.00. ISBN: 978-1-60598-260-1. Release date October 12th.)