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Book Reviews

Spotlight on: Robert J. Randisi

Jim Keough series:
Blood on the Arch by Robert J. Randisi
In the Shadow of the Arch by Robert J. Randisi

Gunsmith series (by "J.R. Roberts")
Killer Grizzly (#24) by J.R. Roberts (Robert J. Randisi)

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In the Shadow of the Arch by Robert J. Randisi Blood on the Arch by Robert J. Randisi Robert J. Randisi, In the Shadow of the Arch (Jim Keough #2)
Robert J. Randisi, Blood on the Arch (Jim Keough #3)

Robert J. Randisi is one of the United States' most prolific novelists -- but his name hardly appears on his books. He writes in other genres under various pseudonyms (which I will not go into here, since they can be found so easily elsewhere on the Internet) but saves his own name for his mystery novels, whether private eye or police procedural. Randisi is also the founder of the Private Eye Writers of America (endowers of the annual Shamus Award for excellence in this often-overlooked subgenre) and a very vocal proponent of the mystery genre in general. He is also a damned fine writer, as evidence by my introduction to his work, the Joe Keough series, which includes the novels In the Shadow of the Arch and Blood on the Arch

Jim Keough is an ex–New York detective who wanted to start fresh after a bit of a scandal. He moved to St. Louis, Missouri, thinking he could still do detective work with the police department, but that things would move a bit slower. He was both wrong and right; only minutes after he entered his new station, three-year-old Brady Sanders walked in, trailing bloody footprints from his feeted pajamas.

Elsewhere in town, a man is targeting young blonde mothers with babies in strollers as his victims. We get to follow this mysterious figure from his point of view, as Keough tries to find out what is going on with both cases (even though he is quickly removed from one) while dealing with the office politics and such that are occurring with this "new kid in town." Randisi tells these stories briskly, making In the Shadow of the Arch a fast-paced police procedural with just enough humor and heart thrown in.

I'm glad I read In the Shadow of the Arch before I tackled Blood on the Arch (which was actually on my shelf for much longer) because Shadow gave me time to get to know Keough as a character while following him on his investigations. Conversely, Blood on the Arch jumps right into the action from page one, which would have been rather disarming if I weren't already familiar with the characters and their personalities.

Blood on the Arch begins a few months after the events in the previous novel with, well ... blood on the Arch -- the St. Louis Arch, that is. Bloody handprints are found on this midwestern landmark, and Joe Keough is called to the scene. Turns out it's a close friend who has been murdered. Later, Keough's temper gets him into trouble (much the way it did in Alone with the Dead, which led to the move in the first place). And if that's not enough stress in Keough's life, another even more personal problem comes to light through helping out his neighbor, Jack.

Blood on the Arch was just as quick a read as its predecessor -- I finished it in 24 hours -- and it may even be the better novel of the two. Try them out for yourself, though, to find out; I'm going to move on to the next books in the series, East of the Arch and Arch Angels.

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