With Sacrifice Fly and Crooked Numbers, Tim O’Mara created a series that had me hooked. His books featuring New York ex-cop turned high school teacher, Raymond Donne, have developed into smart comfort reads, giving the reader an engaging plot with a human touch and social awareness that never comes off preachy. With his latest, Dead Red, O’Mara steps up his game even more.
O’Mara has established his characters in previous novels: now he lets them run and run they do. The first sentence puts us right in the middle of an execution inside a cab that Donne survives. The cabbie, Ricky Torres, recently returned from service in Iraq and a fellow officer from his police days, has something he needs to tell Ray. The bullets, unfortunately, interrupt their conversation. This kicks off the mystery and a new direction in the series.
While the first two books dealt with the students in Donne’s present occupation, this murder pushes him back into his police past. He finds himself having to team up with his former partner, Jack Knight, now working as a PI. Knight had Ricky helping him search for the missing daughter of a PR mogul. Ray doesn’t seem to have many good memories about the partnership, but he must renew their partnership to get to the bottom of the mystery.
O’Mara works on all cylinders as a storyteller. It is his best plotting yet with a story of love, guns, and politics moving at a steady canter with a great number of twists and turns. He is able to perfectly slip in all of Ray’s friends and family we have gotten to know and subtlety integrates themes of partnership and duty. The story also forces Ray to confront his former profession in a way that he’s been dodging before.
Dead Red works as a great introduction to Ray Donne and is an extreme pleasure to those already invested in the series. O’Mara, in his latest, shows the progress Sacrifice Fly promised. He also demonstrates that there is more to come; for the characters, and for the series.
Copies of Dead Red are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.