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On Lonesome Roads
Dan Flanigan, author

As private detective Peter O’Keefe’s continues to heal from the burns he suffered from the blast of a car bomb, neither he nor the police can prove who his assailants were. The media speculates that “The Outfit,” a mafia group in the city, is to blame. O’Keefe isn’t so sure, but he means to find out – and fast.

Terrified of another attack, O’Keefe’s ex-wife, Annie, won’t allow his eleven-year-old daughter near him except under the tightest security, including an armed guard. He can’t blame her. It isn’t safe for Kelly, or anyone else he cares about, to be near him while his attacker is on the loose.

In a desperate effort to keep his family safe and restore his life to some measure of normality, O’Keefe becomes consumed with solving the mystery of who is hunting him. Along the way, he’ll be forced to negotiate with The Outfit – a “devil’s bargain” that just might cost him everything.

Set at the tail-end of the Reagan era, the tense, character-rich third entry in Flanigan’s Peter O’Keefe detective series finds O’Keefe still reeling, physically and mentally, from a car bomb attack that caused severe burn damage. The likely culprits, local mobsters called The Outfit, are at large, and O’Keefe’s life is turned upside-down: since he’s still presumed to be a target, the neighbors want him out, and he can’t even visit his daughter without arranging for “maximum security.” But with a new friend—a retired police dog named Karma—and the determination to protect his family and business, O’Keefe sets out to prove a negative—that the Outfit didn’t do it.

“The only hatchet that’ll get buried’ll be in your skull,” a police contact warns as O’Keefe sets out to make peace. Such sharp, playful dialogue and surprising choices from characters exemplify O’Keefe’s series, in which unpredictable people react to crime-novel events in a refreshingly realistic way, even as Flanigan never skimps on noir atmosphere, crisply rendered action, or pulpy surprises—this time, a reptilian attempt on O’Keefe’s life proves all the more jolting because the novel’s world feels so convincing. The tough talk from the heavies and the sleazy dreams of the proprietor of the Cherry Pink Gentlemen’s Club is as persuasive and engaging as O’Keefe’s domestic drama, which includes an ex eager to marry a new man, despite the daughter’s disgust.

The novel’s length might deter readers who prefer crime tales tight, but O’Keefe again proves, over the pages, to be a compelling creation, especially when backed into a corner. Also strong is the assortment of friends, allies, and potential enemies, all characterized in quick, incisive strokes. (Paschal, “jailbird” and disappointed novelist, is especially good.) Their world of highways, an S&L crisis, and potholed industrial parks is expertly drawn. On Lonesome Roads is a polished thriller that builds to a satisfying but complex conclusion.

Takeaway: Rich characterization and jolting surprises set this polished crime novel apart.

Great for fans of: Matt Goldman, William Kent Krueger.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A