Poison Toe Press (2020)
Reviewed by Amy Lignor for Reader Views (11/2021)
Back in 2011, I met up with police detective Martin Preuss on a “cold November night” in Crimes of Love—Book One of this incredible series by author Donald Levin. From that first book, where this memorable character worked diligently to locate a seven-year-old girl with epilepsy, I have been hooked. If you have not jumped on this proverbial “awesome mystery bandwagon” that includes unforgettable novels (The Baker’s Men, Guilt in Hiding, The Forgotten Child, and more), than I have to say, you’ve seriously been missing out on some of the best mystery writing that exists in the world today!
I was so excited to have this latest mystery, “In the House of Night” land in my lap, and even more excited to learn that this was the longest book ever written in the series, that I shut the door and told one and all to go away so I could dive right in. To put it simply, it was fantastic!
The (now) PI Martin Preuss is a reluctant hero, to say the least, who wants to stay as far away from his former bureau and/or the chief of police as possible but solving this new case will set him squarely in their path. Still highly intelligent, funny, likable and a man who never gives up until he finds the truth, Preuss continues to prove that he has the reader’s attention from word one.
So…what truth is he after this time? When a famous and much-liked retired history professor and activist is brutally murdered, Preuss is hired by a Rabbi and a Priest (no, there is no upcoming joke here) to solve the case and bring the killer to justice. Being that the case is still open, however, and the Ferndale PD is still working on solving it, Preuss tries his best to keep his investigation on the downlow. The Chief, Russo, still holds a very personal vendetta toward Preuss, which means he will find anything he can to put Preuss out to pasture once and for all.
As Preuss talks to people, as quietly as possible, he opens up doors into an angry, disgusting world that shines the light on white supremacy. The plot literally studies the unfortunate facts about bigotry, hatred, racism, and what people will do to others based on nothing but the fact that they don’t happen to like them because they’re not one of “their group.” Facts that are extremely prevalent in our world today, although they should have been erased long ago.
Not only is Preuss dealing with a horrific crime and people who are pure monsters, other subplots work to inspire the story, add action, and even bring forward a romantic interest for Preuss in the form of a recently-hired associate detective named Angie – a character that offers brilliantly-written comic relief to a highly dramatic story.
Well-known characters from the “cast” of this series are also back, like Rhonda and Manny; as well as Toby, Preuss’s non-verbal son who brings about that strong, moving emotion as he helps his father deal with life in his own sweet, silent way. There are also other newbies, like Rabbit and Grace, who I am not going to explain here because if you’re a reader, you NEED to meet these guys on your own!
Perfectly written, fantastic characters, a plot that will thrill readers… this author continues to add excellent, “5-star” stories to one of the best mystery series available!