Murder in the Hollows
reviewed by Eric Ellis
When looking for books to read from authors I’ve never read before, I really appreciate it when the chosen novel exceeds expectations or surprises me. Murder in the Hollows by Declan James is one of those books.
From biographical information gleaned from the Internet, Murder in the Hollows is listed as the debut novel of Declan James however, it does not read that way. Murder in the Hollows reads like a well-crafted novel from a writer that has been publishing tales for a long time.
Murder in the Hollows is a police procedural involving the investigation of the murder of a criminal court judge.
As the novel opens, Judge Rand, a refined, well-liked, and respected jurist, is murdered in his home by a cold and calculating killer. The killer then removes all evidence of his crime from the home and disposes of the corpse in such a way that it will never be discovered. The investigation then starts as a missing person case and slowly evolves into a murder investigation as more information about the judge’s disappearance is discovered.
With such a high-profile murder in Southern Ohio, the Worthington County acting sheriff persuades Deputy Jake Cashen to take over the investigation when it becomes obvious the current detective is in over his head.
Jake Cashen was born and raised in Worthington County and previously worked for the FBI, but has returned home after his sudden and mysterious departure from the FBI after breaking what should have been a career-building case. Through a long-term connection, Cashen was then hired by the Worthington County Sheriff’s Department as a road deputy, which was just fine with Cashen, even though his greatest skills involve complex investigations.
James then further broadens the depth of the novel by providing a compelling back story for Cashen, which includes a dysfunctional Cashen extended family and a cadre of former law enforcement officers known to frequent a local diner while being more than willing to provide Cashen with plenty of advice and guidance, whether asked for or not.
As the investigation deepens, Cashen’s world is further encroached by a bitter and revenge-driven father-in-law and those who continue questioning his sudden FBI departure. Even sheriff department personnel have become upset over his sudden jump from patrol deputy to lead investigator of a high-profile murder case.
Murder in the Hollows is a well-written and developed police procedural and highly recommended to readers of the police procedural sub-genre in crime fiction.
Readers that enjoy the Quinn Colson novels by Ace Atkins and novels by Chris Offutt and Brian Panowich should also enjoy this debut by Declan James.