Kirkus Review: “Bloody Lane” by Martin Lee and Matthew Fleury
A Justice Department investigator’s latest case is the killing of a Civil War re-enactor, his body cropping up on Maryland’s Antietam Battlefield in this debut thriller.
A body on Park Service property makes it federal jurisdiction, or “close enough” for Felix Allaben to take the murder case. Allaben knows the victim, Curtis Gwynn, dead from a gunshot wound and dressed in a Union uniform. Gwynn was a whistleblower against dirty cops back when he and Allaben were at the Baltimore Police Department. And a week before his death, he called Allaben, convinced that a Toyota had tried to run him over. Allaben’s certainly not in want of suspects, and not just irate police officers. Gwynn had an affair with a married woman and, on the night of his murder, had argued with various people at a local tavern. When the park ranger who found Gwynn’s body turns up dead, also on the battlefield, authorities surmise it’s a mere accident––a fall from the observation tower. But there may be something else going on, as evidenced by the baseball bat–wielding men who warn Allaben to stop his meddling. Allaben’s probe leads him to a potentially dangerous militia group and a rather dubious politician. Then the investigator nearly dies in a fire, which could mean that the thugs are making good on their threat. While the protagonist remains delightfully complex and sympathetic, he is definitely flawed. He recently lost his wife, Rebecca, at the hands of a mugger who shot them both. Rebecca was psychologically unwell, and Allaben hadn’t exactly been faithful to her. Notwithstanding, as an investigator, he more than excels. Allaben, for example, often asks questions when he knows the answers, like the meaning behind a snake tattoo, an emblem for the militia group. Lee and Fleury pile on probable killers and clues, but Allaben himself sporadically acknowledges the “vague” evidence and the fact that, still late in the story, he’s “getting nowhere.” The final act, however, kicks red herrings to the wayside and zeroes in on a gratifying reveal––with an extra twist at the very end.
A slow-building murder tale, but the complicated hero and serpentine wrap-up make it a worthy mystery.
Authors: Martin Lee and Matthew Fleury
Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-942146-23-0
eBook ISBN: 978-1-942146-27-8
Local Bookstore: IndieBound
Hardcover & Paperback: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
eBook: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple | Kobo
“A body lies dead on the battlefield at Antietam. Nothing unusual there – so did 23,000 others, victims of the bloodiest day of the Civil War … however, the time is today, not 1862, and the dead man is a victim of murder, not war. So begins this riveting, intricately plotted, beautifully written novel, with a rich cast of characters and a plot that brilliantly parallels the events of September 17, 1862 …” – Robert Leonard Reid, author of Arctic Circle and Mountains of the Great Blue Dream
“Loved it! If you’re a Civil War buff, you won’t be able to put this book down. But even if you know nothing at all about that history, you’ll quickly be hooked by an ingenious plot and a fascinating cast of characters. Martin Lee and Matthew Fleury are natural-born story-tellers, and I congratulate them for keeping me guessing right up until the surprising climax. Bloody Lane is a bloody good read!” – Krin Gabbard, Professor Emeritus, Stony Brook University
“Felix Allaben is a vividly drawn, hard-boiled character in the tradition of Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade. After a murder at historic Antietam battlefield, Detective Allaben gets pulled into a murky and dangerous world, where nothing is as it appears. Stylish, taut, complex … a bloody good read.” – Justin Martin, author of Rebel Souls: Walt Whitman and America’s First Bohemians
Felix Allaben is a haunted man. Haunted by the memory of his wife, gunned down in a mugging gone awry. Haunted by his responsibilities as a single father of a teenage girl. And, as Bloody Lane opens, haunted by the murder of Curtis Gwynn, an ex-cop whom Allaben had known when both served in the Baltimore Police Department. Gwynn is found dressed in the uniform of a Civil War re-enactor on the hallowed grounds of the Antietam battlefield—shot through the head.
Allaben is a special investigator with the Department of Justice. He has been summoned by a shadowy official in Washington to get to the bottom of the crime. Working in tandem with the local sheriff, Felix weaves his way through a maze of leads, lies, and dead ends in his effort to make sense of this first death and of others that unexpectedly follow. In so doing, he comes up against an armed, active, neo-Confederate hate group operating out of a local gun club and bent on domestic terrorism.
The suspects are many. Among them are an unstable realtor with whom Gwynn was having an affair; her alcoholic, hot-headed husband; their son, a Civil War enthusiast who’s been upset by the unsavory lifestyles of his parents; her brother, a rising politician, and a retired Navy contractor, as well as other members of the aforementioned militia.
Bloody Lane is set in and around Frederick, Maryland, a small city with an intriguing past. The infamous Civil War battle of Antietam, fought nearby, yielded the single bloodiest day in American history. The conclusion is both violent and unsettling.