John Misak’s The Fallen is the fifth installment in his John Keegan mystery series, but don’t let the fact that it’s the latest of many throw you off! John Keegan is a gritty NYPD detective with a wife, a new son, a truckload of baggage, and a bad habit of lying to those closest to him, and that’s kind of all the groundwork you need going into this puppy.
Good thing too, because The Fallen starts fast and runs at a breakneck pace from start to finish. Bodies are dropping, an anonymous texter is sending cryptic clues, there are Russian nerve agents abounding, real estate moguls to suspect, a femme fatale somewhere in the mix, and Detective Keegan caught in the middle trying to sort the whole thing ohnt. He’s a man out of time both figuratively, a character plucked from an ‘80s crime thriller who keeps having to remind himself that he’s made it to the 21st century and all the progress that entails, and literally, as a man with too many crimes to solve and too little time to find the answers.
Part of the joy of a character like Keegan is the difference between the way he perceives the world, and the way the characters around him act. Keegan sees himself as isolated, bearing his dark secrets, alone and haunted by the ghosts of his failures, and maybe he is to an extent, but he’s also surrounded by people who care for him. He’s got a frankly awesome wife (can we get a book from Pauline’s perspective, or is that one of the first four in the series and I’ve just missed it?), he’s got a tech wiz friend, a long-suffering partner, and a colorful cast of minor characters like a drunken former FBI agent uncle and the requisite harried boss who butts heads with Keegan but ultimately backs his play.
Misak wields this cast like an artist at a canvas, each character contributes to the overall plot, but this book is Keegan’s show and you can tell how much time and care has gone into crafting the detective’s character. Keegan may not always realize how many people support him in his lonely crusade to clean up New York’s streets, but Misak certainly knows, and we as the audience do too.
Deliciously written, brilliantly paced, and chock full of fully realized characters, The Fallen is definitely one to recommend for the detective thriller reader in your life, while still being accessible to dabblers in the genre like me. Five shining stars, and I certainly look forward to going back and reading Keegan’s earlier adventures in the first four installments of the series.