A Fearsome Moonlight Black, a review by Joanna

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A Fearsome Moonlight Black

David Putnam

Oceanview

Published on October 18th, 2022

322 pages

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I’m not often rendered speechless by a book, but A Fearsome Moonlight Black has left me metaphorically gaping like a goldfish, wondering how my review can do it justice. This first part of a planned trilogy about “Bone Detective” Dave Becket is a fictionalised account of the author’s own experiences as a rookie police officer – he explains in the afterword exactly which parts are true. I’d read and loved the last couple of books in his exciting Bruno Johnson series, so knew this would be good, but was blown away by how haunting this first-person account is.

In 1979, David Beckett is 21, idealistic and enthusiastic, and just starting his police career in the small California town of West Valley, when a series of violent deaths force him to grow up fast. Eight years later, he’s now a seasoned homicide detective with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. He’s known as a bit of a cowboy, and his marriage is falling apart, and then his latest reckless stunt leads to him being demoted to handling cold cases. Then a friend asks him to prove he was framed for murder, and Dave must right the mistakes of the past to catch a cold-blooded killer.
This was quite long for a thriller, but the writing – evocative in parts, emotional in others, made this highly readable and I was hooked from the start. He has a unique way of describing people and places – spare with the physical details, but conveying their essence: “ If there was a line of demarcation for capable, Smith was well past it and deep into devastating.” In the first part, Dave’s naivety is tempered by his observational skills – I felt like I was right there at the crime scenes with him, and his drive to do the right thing jostles with his longing to impress his superiors, but from the start he has a strong moral code: “On the ground all around the porch lay empty shotgun shells, green plastic hulls that littered the grass like seedlings that if left to pollinate could grow into an evil all its own.”
The plot becomes more complicated in the second part – I wasn’t sure I followed all his intuitive leaps, and while I did have a suspicion about who the villain would be, and was proved correct, this didn’t spoil anything. The book ends quite abruptly, although the only cliffhanger is as regards his marriage, but there are two more books to come so that’s fine. I for one cannot wait to read them. Thanks to NetGalley and Oceanview for the ARC.

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