Blood Money, by Michael Lister. Pulpwood Press. 280 pages. Hardcover $26.99. Trade paperback $16.99.
The eighth entry in the “John Jordan Mystery” series shows this incredibly talented and prolific author at the top of his form. No one gives us Panhandle Florida like Mr. Lister, and no one handles the prison microcosm with the degree of physical, social, and moral authenticity that he is able to convey. In this story, local politics rears its more than ugly heads, serial suicides – or homicides in disguise – flare up in the Potterville Correction Institution, and a prostitute who had serviced a political event is found dead – then the corpse is mysteriously stolen.
Chaplain-investigator Jordan, son of the police chief, is once again in the middle of several messes. The new warden wants to get rid of him, Jordan himself wonders if the ugliness of his job is overwhelming him, and his lover’s ex-husband is threatening Anna – the single most important and redeeming relationship in Jordan’s life.
That ugliness at the job includes that fact that a group of inmates have dubbed themselves the Suicide Kings. Take a look: is the king of hearts wielding a weapon toward himself? Or is he fending off or recovering from an attack? However you read the standard image of this card, its discovery as a signature to several deaths in the prison, slipped into each victim/practitioner’s pocket, is eerie and shudder-producing. In an environment where boredom is in itself deadly, incarcerated men need something to do with their dreams of power and their dreams of ending it all. Mostly, the members of the suicide club manage a series of failed attempts.
They have created a situation in which those inside the club or knowledgeable about it can commit a murder and stage it as a suicide. You’ll marvel at how Michael Lister plays out the hand he has dealt to himself in this morbid but magnetic plot line.
Part of the suicide club members’ pact is to buy insurance on each other’s lives; this adds fascinating dimensions to the investigation and a special overtone to the book’s title.
Indeed, the novel is a trove of facts about suicide in general and its epidemic growth in the prison community. Fortunately, author Lister does not break stride as he slides in this astounding information, which is central to the action and themes. We learn, for example, that failed suicides are sometimes failure of will, but often planned as ways of improving the inmate’s benefits: more time out of his cell, more counseling and medication, etc.
Because health care professionals at the prison are experimenting with hypnotherapy to deal with the inmate’s various problems, they fall under suspicion. Perhaps they hypnotizing susceptible men into self-murder – or just plain murder. But to what advantage? . . .
To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 13, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 14 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Blood Money