“Deviations”: A Detectives Seagate and Miner Mystery by Mike Markel

Mike Markel is a master of this genre. “Deviations” is exceptionally well-written throughout, with no wasted words: “Age had defanged the Reverend Barry and was draining the lifeblood of his organization.” It’s the stripped-back writing style of this genre at its best: “I give him money. He gives me drinks. A streamlined relationship.” The author has a similar relationship with his reader: s/he gives him a little money, he gives her/him a great story, skilfully told. I read this one in one go during a ten-hour flight from Manchester to Cancun.

He can get across a whole heap of hurt in a couple of sentences: “Mom had fallen apart – she had a right, I can see that now – so Dad packed up one day and left. He’s in Virginia now, in some kind of facility, where he’s dying of something.” He has a dry sense of humour: “Now, if it said “I think I’m living in a book of fiction,” that might tell you something worth talking about.” “I looked like hell, of course, with the black bags under my eyes giving me that whole racoon vibe.”

He has an almost pathological awareness of the discrepancy between the potential and the actual when it comes to human behaviour: “So, even though there’s about eight or ten inappropriate relationships going on at any given time in the department, it’s still inappropriate.” He is also wise: “The smile that said yes, life is indeed beautiful if you come factory-equipped with all the options – brains, incredible beauty, and energy – and live in an environment in which much is expected and every advantage is provided.”

He’s a genuine satirist. “… they played the chief’s press conference a couple dozen more times and sent all their reporters out on to the streets to interview every non-comatose person in the Rawlings area about the murder. Here’s what I learned: When a person heard about the crime they were either “shocked” or “horrified”. What did they think of the murder? The top answers were that it was “terrible” or “just so sad” followed by “what does it say about our world today?” Was she a good senator? Almost everyone said she was doing a “great job” (not a good job, OK job, or truly shitty job). What would she be remembered for? Top answer: “I don’t really follow politics.”

He has done his research. The reports by the medical examiner are in chilling and convincing detail. His characters are fleshed out with similar meticulousness. You learn some useful stuff about psychological profiling: “Some people laugh when they hear [obnoxious terms of abuse for people different to themselves]. The laughter means that the person hearing the word is better than the person being described by the word. … Other people shake their heads in sadness when they hear these words. They’re a notch more evolved than those who simply laugh. They understand that [the people described by these terms] represent the most serious threat facing true white Christian Americans. This threat makes them sad. Still other people nod their heads in determination. They are the most evolved because they understand that some people have already put down the pen and picked up the sword of righteous anger to smite those who wish to destroy us. …When I saw these people on the video, I couldn’t predict which ones were going to laugh, which were going to be sad, and which were going to be determined.”

There are some great messages: “If you’re too stunted and shallow to see it’s okay that everyone is different, you could at least shut up and make it a little less obvious that you’re a total asshole.” There are profound questions: “Everybody has a story, I guess. The question is, does anyone want to take the time to listen to it?” That will strike a chord with a million Indie authors.

Yet another thing that makes this book special is the author’s interest in the psychological consequences of the trauma suffered by his protagonist while solving the case. Other books in this genre often stop once the crime is solved. “Deviations” takes you beyond that into sessions with a psychiatrist on how his female main character with serious issues to start with should begin to deal with the rage she inevitably feels after being beaten up and raped by a white supremacist psycho who has already raped – beaten to death and carved a fascist symbol into the torso of – a female senator.

By now, it must be obvious that I recommend this book without reservation. I will most definitely be reading and reviewing all the other books in this series. There are so many sows’ ears in the field of Indie publishing that when you occasionally come across a silk purse, you grab him/her with both hands.