Review: Michael Norman introduces a rather unique character in the annals of police procedurals, Sam Kincaid, Chief of the Special Investigations Branch of the Utah Department of Corrections, based in Salt Lake City, in The Commission. This is not a typical job description, and it makes for a unique and largely successful approach to this genre of mystery fiction.
Following the execution-style murder of Levi Vogue, the chairman of the Utah Pardons and Paroles board, Kincaid is asked to assist in the investigation. Despite the outward appearance of being an upstanding citizen of the community, Kincaid soon discovers that Vogue had a darker side. The convoluted trail ultimately leads to a rogue group of prison employees called The Commission who administer their own brand of justice to those whom they deem deserve it.
The primary appeal of The Commission is in the character of Sam Kincaid. Norman writes in a relaxed, almost folksy first person narrative that suits the principal character well. As a police procedural, the reader is taken step-by-step through the investigative process and participates with Kincaid in the unfolding investigation. The story is competently plotted, and serves well as an introduction to a new series.
However, there are a few stylistic flaws which mar this otherwise strong debut that could have, and should have, been corrected during another round of editing. Excepting the prologue that sets up the murder of Vogue, Norman uses first person narrative for the first third of the book. Then, suddenly, there's an italicized passage that presages danger for Kincaid. It's jarring and unnecessary. Following this, and with increasing frequency, Norman scatters third person narrative sections that seem to have been inserted after the completion of the book. It's as if he thought that additional explanation was needed and tossed in a paragraph or two to help fill in some blank spots. Without exception, each of these sections could have been rewritten from Kincaid's perspective, providing a smooth, cohesive narrative throughout.
Acknowledgment: Poisoned Pen Press provided an ARC of The Commission for this review.
Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), May 2008
ISBN-13: 9781590584989; ISBN-10: 1590584988
Location(s) referenced in The Commission: Salt Lake City, Utah
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The Commission by Michael Norman — A Sam Kincaid Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: February 2007
List Price: $24.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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