The Prison Guard's Son
A Finn Harding Mystery by Trace Conger
Review: Finn Harding lost his PI license but he's managed to keep busy by discreetly accepting assignments that tread the fine line between the legal and not-so-legal and knowing how to respond appropriately. But his latest case seems to rest firmly on the side of illegal, and yet he doesn't seem to care, in The Prison Guard's Son, the third mystery in this series by Trace Conger.
Three decades ago two boys kidnapped, brutalized, and killed a four-year-old boy. They were quickly captured, tried, and convicted, but due to their own young ages, were confined to a youth detention center. On their eighteenth birthdays, they were ordered released into the protective custody of the federal witness protection program, a very unusual move. Now, the father of the murdered boy, following the death of his wife, believes he has nothing left to lose and hires Finn to find the boys. He doesn't ask Finn to do anything more, but Finn knows that once the boys, now men, are found, the man will have them killed. Still, the brutality of the crime and the fact that the killers were given little more than a slap on the wrist gets under Finn's skin. He agrees to help, but he also knows it's going to be tough to find them. And, to be sure, it is. But using some trusted associates, he manages to locate one, then the other. But in the process, he comes to see that a case he first thought of as starkly black and white has a lot of gray to it … and isn't sure turning the men over to the dead boy's father is the right thing to do.
The Prison Guard's Son is a superbly crafted crime novel. The characters are richly drawn with a rare combination of nuance and depth. Later in the book Finn runs afoul of a government agent assigned to protect the identities of the killers, and she exhibits many of the same traits as Finn, willing to cross a line when necessary to achieve an objective. Even so, the scenes of the two of them together are riveting, two antagonists circling each other, waiting for an opening to take advantage of. A minor quibble might be the sort-of-but-not-quite twist at the end, which was really unnecessary. Indeed, it's hard to see how it adds any value to what was already an exceptionally well-constructed and delivered story. That point aside, this is one of the year's best books; don't miss it.
Acknowledgment: Black Mill Books provided an eARC of The Prison Guard's Son for this review.
Review Copyright © 2016 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Prison Guard's Son: Cincinnati, Ohio; West Virginia; Texas; Tennessee
— ♦ —
The Prison Guard's Son by Trace Conger — A Finn Harding Mystery
Publisher: Black Mill Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: July 2016
List Price: $12.95
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites