Rudy Cutter is serving a life sentence for the murders of several young women, including the sister of homicide detective Frost Easton. Now Easton learns his boss, and former lover, Jess, planted the evidence which got Cutter convicted. The original case is completely thrown out, Easton’s friend is fired, and Cutter back on the street to kill again. Frost is determined to stop Cutter and reporter-turned-writer Eden Shay wants to help.
This is the way to start a book. No prologue. The story begins on the very first page. The scene is created, and one knows exactly where it’s set. There is a suggestion of threat which grows quickly until even as a reader, you nearly jump from the sense of danger being revealed, and the knowledge that it is only the beginning.
Freeman knows how to create a strong sense of place—“Painted murals adorned the massive columns of the freeway overpass.., Behind a metal fence, he saw the concrete ramps of a skateboard park…”. For those who live, or spent time, in the San Francisco/Bay Area, the local references--"He parked his police Suburban in the empty lot where buses normally unloaded tourists to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. ... For tourists, this was the symbol of San Francisco. For the locals, it was just a bridge."--are a wonderful touch, but they don’t overwhelm or slow down the pace of the story.
Freeman also excels at the well-executed plot twist; the ones you feel you should have seen coming, but didn’t. He also creates excellent “what would you do” scenarios.
The argument about--“the line." The line between going by the book and taking shortcut. It was a line that every cop faced sooner or later, when he had to decide if the end justified the means. Sometimes doing the right thing meant a criminal going free. Sometimes doing the wrong thing saved lives."--is a point which gives one something about which to seriously think. The title of the book is taken from the poem of the same name by Shel Silverstein.
The book’s plot is interesting in that there is no question as to the identity of the killer, and he is not a sympathetic character; no anti-hero here. But there is also more here than we expect.
Frost is a well-developed character; thought of as a “Boy Scout” by fellow cops. One thing that is rather questionable is the freedom he has. We never see him going into headquarters, rarely working with a team, or working more than one case. Frost is taken by his own good looks and ease of attracting women. Fortunately, at the end, we feel he may be maturing. His chef-brother, Duane, is a wonderful bit of lightness and his girl-friend Tabby, fits in the middle. We do so hope Freeman doesn’t take the stereotypical-relationship route with these characters, but it seems that may be avoided. Eden Shay, the writer, is a bit predictable but still steps outside that role. Comparing Easton’s former-lover Jess to a track of music is fascinating.
“The Voice Inside” is a step ahead in this series with an intense plot a dramatic climax and follow-on, and a well-done conclusion.
THE VOICE INSIDE (Pol Proc-Frost Easton-San Francisco, CA-Contemp) – VG+
Freeman, Brian – 2nd in series
Thomas & Mercer – January 2017