A divided soul drives a heady, gruesome mystery tale

The Upside to Murder, by Marshall Frank. Aberdeen Bay. 266 pages. $16.95.

Dr. Orville Madison knows the justice system well enough to fear it. This generous and God-loving physician, a pillar of his Miami community, has determined that there is only one way to protect his daughter Cassie from reliving the experience that has devastated her. He must kill the culprits who gang-raped his teenage daughter before the police arrest them and bring the case to trial. 

Cassie had been seriously beaten and lost one eye. Her health and state of mind are delicate. Her father has decided that she cannot maintain her sanity as a witness in a trial. To save her from such an ordeal, he begins his own investigation with one end in mind. Before long, he does find and murder two of the criminals, and he hopes soon to close in on the third, whose name he knows.

The official case to find Cassie’s tormentors is headed up by Detective Sergeant Ray Blocker, a veteran homicide investigator who doesn’t look the part. His upscale wardrobe is one of the results of his hitting it big in a lottery. Another is his custom Cadillac Esplanade police cruiser. Then there’s the oceanfront condo. A widower whose wife died in a car crash, Blocker is estranged from his daughter and rarely gets to see his grandchild.

A top-notch and respected detective, Blocker slowly begins to suspect that Dr. Madison is the man who’s beating the police to the suspects – which means that there is probably a leak at police headquarters. Madison’s wife, Addie, suffering from her husband’s peculiar behavior, especially his mysterious absences, is fighting down her own suspicions.

Melbourne author Marshall Frank balances his storytelling on three poles: scenes focused on Madison, scenes focused on Blocker, and scenes focused on one or another second-tier character – most significantly the third suspect, prize fighter Marvin Patterson. Most often, Mr. Frank shuttles among three perspectives in a single chapter, heightening suspense and building his complex, multidimensional portrait of human nature within a nightmarish vision of Miami unlike that of most novels set in that city.

Marshall Frank

The Upside to Murder includes a stimulating mix of ethnicities, including a French-Canadian hooker. Like the real Miami, the novel is populated by Whites, Blacks, and Browns. While Mr. Frank makes it clear who among his characters is Caucasian, Afro-American, or Hispanic, his handling of racial and cultural identity is subordinated to representing the essential humanity of each individual. This humanity transcends but does not deny the factors of heritage and community. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the October 3, 2012 Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the October 4 Bonita Springs and Space Coast editions, and the October 11 Naples edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Marshall Frank

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