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A Hard Death    by Jonathan Hayes order for
Hard Death
by Jonathan Hayes
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jonathan Hayes, author of last year's outstanding Precious Blood, now brings us another engrossing chiller starring forensic pathologist Edward Jenner in the sequel, A Hard Death.

Indeed there are many hard deaths in the seaside town of Port Fontaine, Florida where Jenner has been offered a temporary position as medical examiner (his New York state medical license having been suspended after the Inquisitor serial killings) by his friend and mentor, Dr. Martin Roburn, while Roburn and his wife take a well deserved world cruise. Short of funds, Jenner stays at the sleazy Palmetto Court Motel, in 'the part of town half-sunk in the mosquito jungles that rimmed the Everglades.'

The story opens on two vicious hangings of Mexican migrant workers in the Western Everglades, one of the killers recording the event with a camcorder. Two weeks later, we join Jenner as he settles into his new job. Then two bodies are found in a drowned car - the Roburns. At the scene Jenner meets pretty, no-nonsense park ranger Deb Putnam - she likes what she sees. At the same time, an intoxicated migrant worker is telling rich summer intern Adam Weiss a story - of workers who screw up being killed in the Glades - that he would much rather not have heard. Terrified, he makes an anonymous call to Jenner, giving him the location of the hangings.

Jenner now has two high profile cases to handle in this sleepy backwater. The plot thickens when he finds drugs in Martin Roburn's car. He works with a competent officer named Rudge, but the Sheriff has a political agenda. After a stray dog adopts Jenner, he meets lovely Maggie Craine and her anorexic daughter at an animal shelter and, through Maggie, her wealthy father Chip. There are more deaths. Then, Jenner's media nemesis, Amanda Tucker, shows up in town, aiming to target Jenner for her American Crime show. He loses his job and his career is threatened. Though he decides to cut his losses and leave town, a call for help keeps him in play.

As in his debut thriller, Hayes masterfully builds up the action so that his hero's close shaves accelerate to an explosive conclusion. As Jenner personally kills a bad guy once more, Hayes makes clear that the pathologist is beginning to like the act too much - where will this vigilantism lead him? Guess we'll just have to wait to find out, but I hope the author is already writing a sequel. I for one will be lining up to read it.

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