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J. M. Taylor
Dark Heat
J. M. Taylor, author
The novel focuses on Starr Wyman, an herbalist who must also care for her war-damaged brother, a veteran of the Iraq campaign who harbors secrets no one could fathom. Her father, a despotic alderman and drug kingpin, keeps his boot heel on her movements. But when a stranger comes to town, searching for an ancient relic stolen from the Iraqi National Museum, she sees what just may be a way out. But, like Medea, she will have to make a painful sacrifice in order to gain her freedom.
In this impressive noirish tale from Taylor (Night of the Furies), Jase Patton arrives in Cuthbert, Mass., in search of an ancient piece of ivory, whose “recent history was violent and bloody” and is rumored to have been part of the Treasure of Nimrud, a legendary cache that evaded the clutches of Saddam Hussein and his family. Patton’s shadowy employer has informed him that it was given to Wint Wyman, a Cuthbert politician, as escrow in a deal, but Wyman failed to return it as agreed. Patten’s charged with both retrieving the object by any means and humiliating Wyman; failing at either will result in Patton’s own torture and execution. Patton hooks up with an attractive woman, Starr, who runs an herbalist store, not knowing that she’s Wyman’s daughter. When she learns his mission, she agrees to help him, motivated in part by her antipathy to her corrupt, hypocritical, and self-righteous parent. Convincing characters match logical and surprising plot developments. Taylor perfectly captures the rhythm of a small community in thrall to a power-hungry man. Fans of Ace Atkins’s Quinn Colson books will be pleased. (Self-published)