ROBERT J. RANDISI – Alone with the Dead. Joe Keough #1. St Martin’s, hardcover, 1995. Leisure Books, paperback, 1999. Perfect Crime, trade paperback, 2014.

   I think somebody told me this will be a series, but I’m not sure. I’ve been neither a booster nor a buster of Randisi’s books. I think he’s a pretty good writer, but I also think he gets a bit sloppy sometimes with his plots and background, and has yet to write the book he could write. Could this be it?

   Joe Keough is a NYC detective, banished to a Brooklyn precinct because he lost his temper at the wrong time. He catches a case involving a rape and murder of a young girl, similar to a series of killings by a killer nicknamed “The Lover”. Joe doesn’t think it’s the same killer, but his superiors do, and overrule him. Subsequent murders convince Joe he’s right, but no one wants to look for a second serial killer but him.

   Well, I still don’t think he’s written the best book he can write, but this one isn’t bad at all. Randisi is a thoroughly competent storyteller in terms of pacing and action, and he moves this one right along. It isn’t padded, and that’s a real plus – I’ve read a number of books this year with no more story that were 150 pages longer. And it’s a type of story I like, the one-good-man-against-the-system kind.

   So why am I not giving it a higher rating? Keeping in mind that the grade I gave it is better than average, it’s not higher yet because his prose is workmanlike but not exceptional, and there were no characters that I thought had any depth beyond the ordinary. It’s “just” an entertaining, well-told story.

   There should be more such.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #21, August-September 1995


Editorial Comment: Barry graded this one a “happy face smiley plus.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but as he explains in the review, it’s somewhere above average.

      The Joe Keough series —

1. Alone With the Dead (1995)
2. In the Shadow of the Arch (1997)
3. Blood on the Arch (2000)
4. East of the Arch (2002)
5. Arch Angels (2004)

    … so yes, Barry was right. This book was the first in a series.