by G.M. Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
G.M. Ford’s Salvation Lake (Thomas & Mercer 2016) is the story of Leo Waterman, a retired P.I. living off a trust fund but unable to shake the need to answer questions and right wrongs. When Seattle’s Medical Examiner finds Leo’s dad’s custom-made jacket on a dead homeless man–stuffed in the trunk of a car next to another dead man–Leo can’t stop himself from trying to track down how his dad’s coat ended up on a stiff. As he digs into the mystery, he’s attacked, almost killed, his friends are almost killed, he’s accused of murder–none of which discourage his search for answers.
This is the eighth in the Leo Waterman series, but my first. Told in the first person, I quickly became enamored with Waterman’s irreverent approach to life:
“When the big guy [Waterman’s father] finally blew a heart valve…”
“Like I said, this was an easily amused crowd. The place came unhinged again. Everybody pointing at me and whooping it up for all they were worth. Even Marge forgot her Billy Bob death wish and was laughing her ass off.”
“Gosh and golly, I’ll have to sleep with a night-light.” [in response to a threat from a large nasty guy]
“They’d been sliced and diced from stem to stern, split down the middle like capons, and then sewn back together, with something akin to red fishing line.”
This flippancy made me laugh and groan, in equal measures. It reminded me of Nelson DeMille’s John Corey in Plum Island, a smart-aleck detective who couldn’t control his mouth. And then there are the poetic lines that hint at Waterman’s deeper outlook on the world:
“…eroded by the torrents of life…”
Even as I was wrapping up the last few pages, I wasn’t clear on Leo’s motivation. In his own words:
“All I’d managed to accomplish thus far was to endanger the lives of any number of innocent people, get myself beat up, kidnapped, and dumped in the trunk of a car, then arrested and charged with capital murder, and now for my grand finale…”
Surely all of this didn’t happen because Leo as curious. Since this is well into the series, I’m guessing the motivations that forced Leo to grab ahold of this problem and refuse to give up, despite the danger to him, to his friends, and the lack of an upside, were clarified in the earlier books. Like Jack Reacher who can’t let the little guy get trampled or Sherlock Holmes who simply loves a good puzzle, there’s probably a character fault that forces Leo to keep moving forward.
Oh, one more quirky discomfort: Despite being an ex-PI with a rather large physique, Leo manages to get outsmarted and outfought quite a lot, much of it self-inflicted. And some story parts left me scratching my head. It took a big dose of suspended disbelief to accept what happened at times. I’d say the author’s plotting is a bit ragged occasionally, but since this is the eighth in the series, it’s probably intentional (I won’t give you examples because I don’t want to reveal any spoilers).
But, as I turned the last page, I knew I’d be reading #1-7 in the series. Something about Leo Waterman makes me want more.
–received a free book from NetGalley in return for my honest review
More PI novels:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.