Murder on the Metro
Margaret Truman & Jon Land
reviewed by Matt Pechey
Pechey Ponderings | Goodreads
Robert Brixton has spent the better part of the last five years remember his daughter and how she was killed by a suicide bomber while seated in a cafe. The pain remains wedged front and centre in his mind, though he is now able to compartmentalize it when needed. After learning from his best friend, Mackensie Smith, that his job as a P.I. is being made redundant, he wonders what the next chapter in his life might be.
While riding on the Washington Metro, Brixton noticing a woman not dressed for the weather and acting in a highly suspicious manner. Following her, Brixton is able to chase her off the train, just in time for her suicide vest to explode. Brixton’s keen senses have saved many lives and he is congratulated when interviewed by a gruff detective before being whisked away for medical treatment.
Meanwhile, in the Naval Observatory, the US vice-president is ending another day with her head of Secret Service detail. Kendra Rendine has promised to keep the VPOTUS safe at all costs, though nothing could prepare her when the second most powerful person in American politics—a woman, no less—dies suddenly of a heart attack. Rendine is stunned, moreso when she learns that there may have been some ‘help’ to ensure the medical event occurred.
Working alongside Brixton, Rendine begins exploring the truth behind the heart attack, surmising that someone has been plotting for a while. When Brixton uncovers truths behind the Metro bombing that he had not realised before, he’s stunned to see that there are ties to a meeting in the White House and a prisoner in a federal facility with no formal documentation.
All the while, a drone attack in Israel awakens a Mossad operative to a larger terrorist cell developing in Washington. Answers await, though who can be trusted is anyone’s guess. Brixton and Rendine may have some needed answers, but Mossad has never played well in the sandbox with others.
As Brixton uncovers the truth behind the bombing, the murder of VPOTUS, and a terror cell’s strike in Israel, he discovers that there is something taking place deep in the White House that no one could have predicted was taking place. It’s going to take more than a simple accusation to reveal this truth, with an election on the horizon.
Jon Land does well to pick up where his two predecessors left off. Donald Bain and Margaret Truman both honed the complex and long-running narrative of the Capital Crime series effectively, though Land does not miss a beat. He tackles the big issues and is able to spin a tale like no other, keeping series fans from bemoaning a change in style and intensity.
Robert Brixton remains at the center of the story, a place that Donald Bain chose for him years ago. Brixton continues to struggler with the death of his daughter, as well as his search for love with a woman who does not always accept his hands-off approach. Instilled with a determination to seek answers wherever questions remain, Brixton is keen to get to the heart of the matter without thinking of himself. There is little time for backstory, though the limited development Land permits works well to solidify him as an essential part of the series and this story.
The use of strong secondary characters works well in this series, As mentioned above, one-time star, Mac Smith, has been relegated to window dressing, though he does well in his position. Kendra Rendine is a wonderful Land creation and she works well throughout the quick-pace narrative. Rendine works effectively throughout the piece, offering up some nuggets that readers will likely enjoy. She surrounds herself with a handful of other key players, each of whom brings something to the story that makes it the strong piece that readers will come to find exciting.
I often have issues when an author takes up the world of another, particularly on the death of the series creator. When Margaret Truman passed and the torch went to Donald Bain, I worried about the strength of the series. After a little patience, I realized that while this would not be Truman 2.0, it worked and I could continue to commit to the books. Now, with Bain having passed, Jon Land is handed the reins to see what he can make of things. Neither Truman 3.0 or Bain 2.0, Land has begun to carve out his own niche and does so well. I hope he will be able to commit to keeping the series on point and not allow this to be a ‘side job’.
The story worked really well for me, combining the political and criminal elements of a decent thriller. A strong narrative pushed things together nicely and meshed some strong plots into a cohesive story that finds a way to come together at its climax. With a number of strong characters, Land keeps the reader invested in the story, offering some ties to those who laid the groundwork for the series—read: Mac Smith—without getting lost in the past. Using a mix of chapter lengths and plot perspectives, Land keeps the reader wondering and pushing on, if only to learn how the various crimes connect and what the master plan might be for those pulling all the strings. I came into this piece somewhat hesitant about what to expect, but am keen to see Jon Land’s plan for series writing, after this stellar effort.
Kudos, Mr. Land, for impressing me with your first attempt at this long and highly intriguing series. Donald Bain did well in choosing you for his successor and I am sure Margaret Truman would be equally as impressed. Keep writing and series fans will take notice!
Editor’s Note: Murder on the Metro was selected as one of our best mysteries of 2021.