Back To Life by John Carson

Back To Life by John Carson
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Fern

It looked like a simple murder case. But the victim’s false identity is just the beginning…
Edinburgh DCI Harry McNeil’s dangerous job wasn’t made for relationships. So when a female officer’s mutilated remains wash up in a canal, it feels like proof he was right to leave his long-time girlfriend. But the investigation takes an unexpected turn when he discovers the corpse was carrying a police ID belonging to a cop already dead and buried.

Digging deeper, McNeil learns the woman was actually a software engineer nosing around high-tech, classified projects and poking into murky government corners. So when a second body surfaces, he fears the truth lies in the darkest corners of greed and corruption. And someone is determined to make certain those secrets never come to light…

Can McNeil catch the killer before the deadly tables are turned on him?

BACK TO LIFE is the second book in the gritty DCI Harry McNeil Scottish crime thriller series. If you like hardboiled detectives, dark humor, and snappy banter, then you’ll love John Carson’s unputdownable tale.

I really enjoyed this second story featuring DCI Harry McNeil and DS Alex Maxwell. While there is an interesting and decent plotline surrounding a new Artificial Intelligence company involved in making driverless cars and the complicated murder of a police officer – Linda Smith, who oddly actually died more than three months ago yet her police warrant card was found on this new body – I actually mostly really enjoyed the growth in both Harry and Alex’s characters.

While both were enjoyable in the first story (Sticks and Stones) in this second outing I really feel the author had the time and space not just to allow us as the reader to spend more time with them, but also helped flesh out their working relationship to a greater degree. I admit that each character felt more three-dimensional this time around and I became a lot more attached to them both. Harry is dealing with his recent break-up and complications arising from extracting his life from his ex – who still lives just around the corner and they frequent many of the same places. I also feel Alex really comes out to be her own character, I got a better understating of who she is and enjoyed the fact her personality shone through a lot better and she wasn’t just the underling learning from a decent boss and trying to grow her career.

Readers looking for a strong romance in their mystery story probably won’t find this fits their needs. While there is certainly more dancing around Alex and Harry’s feelings in this story there is no overt motion on either side to instigate a romance. That said, there did feel to me like some chemistry might be bubbling away in the background and I feel the author might be leaving their options open in that regard as the next few stories progress.

What I did really enjoy though was the deepening of the working – and friendship – dynamic between Alex and Harry and by the end of this story they each felt a lot more “real” to me and I was committed to seeing a lot more of this series through. The plot was strong and well-woven, but in some respects I feel it actually took a back seat in this book to the relationship and character growth of the two main characters. And for a series like this, having a book where the focus is on the characters and their growth isn’t a bad thing. Particularly since I didn’t feel the plot suffered in any meaningful way.

For a well written police-procedural mystery with some deeper than usual and interesting character this is a great book to try.

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