LEFT FOR DEATH is a mystery procedural featuring a tenacious detective near retirement who becomes embroiled in a perplexing crime that expands into one of the most challenging of his career.
In Joseph D’Aquisto’s LEFT FOR DEATH, Seattle detective, John Sandes, takes what may be his last case before retirement: Leo Johnson, a man living alone, not so unlike Sandes, has gone missing. The detective discovers quickly that Johnson has been murdered. But why? Detective Sandes finds several compelling clues in Johnson’s apartment. A picture of a blonde girl and a homemade bookmark with Roman numerals on it lead Sandes down a dark and increasingly twisted path into crimes uglier far more extensive than one dead man alone in his apartment. To solve Johnson’s murder and to stop more violence, Sandes, a strong man, bruised by life, must face dangers that severely test his waning strength.
LEFT FOR DEATH is a credible crime and mystery genre novel. D’Aquisto captures the detective’s character well, from his clipped, rational, observational style to his troubled past. Additionally, the spiraling depth and the sordid realities of the case suit this fictional form. D’Aquisto has also carefully constructed a plausible logic to his character’s motives. But D’Aquisto’s efforts in LEFT FOR DEATH are hindered by several challenges. More attention to Sandes’ mid-life transition to detective work might enhance reader’s appreciation, whose past is critical to understanding his character and drive. D’Aquisto also sometimes struggles with dialogue: the voices of non-native English speakers and hardened criminals can read awkwardly. Though D’Aquisto structures the fight scenes with care, the pacing is occasionally abrupt and is the author’s balance of too much, or too little, foreshadowing.
The greatest strength of the novel is the presentation of a bruised man continuing to fight the good fight with relentless dedication. Sandes is nearing retirement–his body aches and he is haunted by the absence of his beloved daughter, Mallory, from his life. His recollections emphasize his lost happiness, missteps and regrets. In the face of this, Sandes, outmanned by the criminals he is seeking to overcome, perseveres.
Joseph D’Aquisto’s LEFT FOR DEATH is a solid effort in the crime and mystery genre. The storytelling and writing style present a few obstacles, but there is a novelistic power in witnessing the aging and haunted detective’s dogged determination to do the right thing.
Left for Death: A Noir Detective Novella by Joseph D’Aquisto is a compelling crime fiction novella told from the perspective of Detective John Sandes. He details the riveting series of events that lead up to a gruesome crime, which happens right before he retired from the Seattle Police Department. It all started when he’d found a dead body at a crime scene and discovered a shocking connection to a little girl’s disappearance from a year ago. What soon followed was a tangled web of deception that led to a child trafficking ring and police corruption in his own department.
D’Aquisto knows how to tell a gripping crime tale with fast-paced action and lots of drama that colors every page. The events of the story are rich with intricate details of real-life ripped-from-the-headlines stories, like an episode from the television show Law & Order.
What I enjoyed about this crime mystery is that we get to learn about Detective Sandes’ life as well. He’s a veteran that reflects on his past mistakes while grappling with his physical and mental health. This makes Sandes both grounded and relatable, but still a very intriguing character.
The novella creates some vivid imagery of the locations and setting for the story which really brings to life Seattle and New York City and allows the characters to inhabit these spaces and makes the scene a part of the story rather than just the background. The story is very detailed as well, giving readers a great visual of the crime scene, the evidence, and the wild goose chase we’re taken on that goes in some unexpected directions, all the while relying on the skills of Detective Sandes to reveal the mystery to the reader.
While I enjoyed the mystery at the heart of this story, and the methodical unraveling of that mystery, I felt that the momentum of the story is sometimes slowed by a wealth of backstory and various moments where we’re told things rather than shown things. John Sandes is an interesting character and I think getting more of the story from his point of view would have been fascinating.
Left for Death is a gripping crime novel which summons the best elements of the noir genre that puts a stirring character in the midst of an enthralling mystery with thought-provoking repercussions.