You're As Good As Dead
E A Aymar
2nd book in the Dead Trilogy
Three years have passed since Tom Starks, a Baltimore community college professor and single father, tried to avenge his wife’s death by hiring a hit man. Tom is now hopeful that he has left the world of violence and murder behind. But he is drawn back into Baltimore’s criminal underground after he witnesses the assassination of an influential crime boss. To make matters worse, it appears the FBI has discovered Tom’s involvement, and they force him to work with them as an informer. Now Tom must navigate a deadly path between warring crime families and ruthless federal agents, even as he desperately tries to keep his involvement a secret from those closest to him.
A witness to murder, with his own past to protect, teacher Tom Starks is a man under pressure.
If the first book in the trilogy had Tom trying to avenge his wife’s death, this second offering one has him on the defensive from the off. He has a history to hide and a fifteen-year old daughter to protect.
It may be Tom’s story but we hear from multiple narrators and the different 1st person POVs work really well, particularly that of daughter Julie. How Tom views her, and her boyfriend, contrasts with the reality, making for a believable and interesting relationship with love and conflict on show, especially when each must try to deal with the other’s romantic situation.
In telling the story in present tense, Aymar adds a level of immediacy that suits the fast-paced narrative. With almost a feeling of real-time we race from one threat to the next in what is an entertaining ride.
The word ‘hardboiled’ could be applied to the style but the main protagonist is not your typical noir lead. Yes, he can carry a Glock, is prepared to kill, and does push-ups, but he’s more in the everyman club than the tough guy group, despite his desperation and willingness to do whatever it takes to survive.
Baltimore is the suitable setting for this tale of violence and gangs. While the mystery comes in the form of the characters; an elusive crime boss called The Judge, hit-girl sisters, the Feds; man, virtually everyone is a potential threat or saviour, as you’re never sure who can be trusted.
There are actions and repercussions a plenty in this thoroughly enjoyable novel.
About E A Aymar:
E A AYMAR is a monthly columnist for the Washington Independent Review of Books and a longtime employee of the C-SPAN networks. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime. His short fiction and essays have appeared in a number of publications, including Crime Factory, Criminal Minds, The Rap Sheet and the Big Thrill.