A couple of years ago I was in real reading funk, and the book that snapped me out of it was Ed Gorman’s SLEEPING DOGS, his first mystery novel featuring political consultant Dev Conrad. I’ve just read the second book in the series, STRANGLEHOLD, and even though I’ve been on a run of good books lately and didn’t need a funk-breaker, this one is just as much fun as Dev’s debut.
Maybe “fun” isn’t the right word to describe it, though. There are some moments of sly humor, of course, but what really comes through is the sense of melancholy and compassion that you find in all of Ed’s books. In this case, Dev’s firm is running the re-election campaign for an Illinois congresswoman, and when she starts disappearing at odd times and seems bothered by something, he’s called in by his associates to find out what’s wrong. A former army intelligence officer, Dev functions a lot like a private investigator in these books, while at the same time having to deal with the frustrations of a political campaign.
The congresswoman has a convoluted family history and secrets of her own, and when one of the campaign consultants for her rival winds up being murdered, she’s not a suspect herself, but it seems likely that the crime will be blamed on one of her relatives. With the police convinced they know who the killer is, Dev has to launch his own investigation and find the real murderer in order to have any chance of salvaging the congresswoman’s campaign. Naturally, Gorman piles on several more twists, including another murder, before Dev straightens everything out and discovers the truth.
While the mystery angle is top-notch, as usual, the real appeal of this book, as was the case with the first one, is Dev Conrad himself. Cynical, pragmatic, a little bitter, yet clinging to the hope that there really is some goodness still to be found in the world, he’s a great narrator and definitely the sort of guy you want to have on your side if you’re in trouble, whether it has anything to do with politics or not.
STRANGLEHOLD will be out in a few weeks, but you can pre-order it now. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you do. Highly recommended.