Written by Robert K Lewis — Waking up with the needle still in his arm is a new one for ex-cop Mark Mallen, and a new low. He’s spent the past four years of his life as a heroin junkie, a descent that began during undercover work with the San Francisco Police Department. He knows things are bad, and he desperately misses his estranged nine-year-old daughter, but he’s not sure how to come back from the brink.
When former colleague inspector Oberon Kane knocks on his door, he’s not quite sure what to think, but one thing he does know – Kane is probably not bearing good news. Ex-cop and good friend Eric Russ has been found shot dead with a slip of paper with Mark’s name and address in his pocket. Kane doesn’t think he had anything to do with Eric’s death, but definitely wants to know why his name and address were found on the body. Obviously, Mark doesn’t have an answer for him, but is determined to find out what happened to his friend.
Soon, while visiting his friend’s parents to offer his condolences, Mark discovers that Eric had been having some issues of his own, issues that Mark is very intimate with. Eric’s mother insists that he’d been turning his life around, and was close to getting back together with his wife. When Mark visits Eric’s widow, Jenna, who’s been beaten, the cops show up soon after, and he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. While he cools his heels in a squad car, he sees some faces in the crowd from back in his undercover days, and they’re not friends. These two nasty customers recognise him and it seems likely they have a score to settle. Luckily, Kane knows Mark wants to get clean, and offers to let him sober up the jailhouse way. He’s willing to try anything to get off the junk, and knows rehab isn’t the answer.
After three days behind bars, he begins the hard road to sobriety, and to finding Eric’s killer. Having to dodge the two thugs on his tail is proving to be harder than he thought, and certainly isn’t helping in his investigation. Without the resources of the police to help him, he’s at a distinct disadvantage. Soon Mark finds out that others are dying, and if he keeps up his investigation, he may be next.
Untold Damage, Robert K Lewis’s first novel, remains mostly focused on Mark and his investigation, with vignettes detailing past scenes before he became addicted to heroin. We also follow along with Oberon Kane as he conducts his own, official investigation. I couldn’t help but feel pity for Mark at the beginning, but as the story goes on, and he sobers up, he becomes so much stronger that pitiful can no longer be used to describe Mark Mallen. While the mystery is intriguing, I thought this book was really about Mark, and his long ascent from such a deep, dark pit. He spends a bit of time feeling sorry for himself, but this doesn’t last long, and it turns out that his friends and family are very strong motivators. He longs to be part of something again, even if he knows he’ll never again be a cop.
Some of the dialogue is stilted, and there are some pacing issues. You might be able to see straight through one or two of the characters as well. While it has its issues, Untold Damage does introduce a man you can’t help but root for, and is an entertaining suspense debut from an author to watch.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars