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Book Review: High Order by Mike Sutton

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High Order, written by Mike Sutton, is a bone-chilling multi-murder mystery that will keep readers racing through from the explosion in the first few pages until the very end.

Jim Grabowski is Baltimore’s lead bomb technician. He risks his life each time a suspicious package or gadget is suspect as a bomb threat. Many times the threats are bogus, but on those occasions where the lives of others are at risk, Jim and the men he works with endanger their own lives trying to determine if a suspect device is armed and, if it is, how to defuse it safely.

In High Order, the wife of a 70-year-old man is hideously murdered. There are no witnesses to the actual butchery, but quite by happenstance a husband and wife secretly see the killer toss the corpse into a dumpster. Both know the killer’s auto make and plate number. 

Hassled police hope they finally have an open and shut case against a serial murderer who has raped and slaughtered several other women. He follows a routine which has now become familiar to detectives. The two witnesses independently identify the killer from a line-up.

The enormously wealthy father of the alleged killer hires a high-priced lawyer who buys off the prosecution’s top two witnesses. Given enormous sums of money to pay off their home and for a much-needed medical procedure for their own ailing son, neither witness can recall with certainty what they saw the night of the murder, or the murderer’s automobile license plate number. Frustrated, the judge must release the young suspected serial killer.

However, the 70-year-old widower learns of the witness bribe. He will not let his wife’s murder go unavenged. At his age, he feels he has nothing left to lose. An extremely intelligent man and an electronics expert, he secures deadly materials to build cleverly camouflaged bombs he’ll use to execute the unethical lawyer, his wife, and eventually the young man who dodged a murder rap. Then he will join his wife in death by killing himself, after he finds a technique that would not suggest a degrading suicide.

Throughout High Order, each time a bomb detonates and Jim Grabowski is forced to investigate, it’s somehow vindicating to see justice carried out, even knowing that murder for revenge is morally wrong. Of course, the old man is devastated when his killing bombs accidentally destroy the lives of innocent people.

So, two deadly threads run a collision course through High Order: (1) will the serial killer eventually be caught and (2) will the 70-year-old widower be stopped before he kills those responsible for the infamous trial of his wife’s murderer?

Even though most of us consider murder wrong, I found this book hard not to read. At the beginning of the book, I thought I should not be reading about such atrocities — rape, murder, hatred, bombings — yet I must confess I couldn’t help myself. I had to find out what happened to the villainous men in High Order.

I would recommend this book as a great read but not for the squeamish. The writing style of Mike Sutton is precise and accurate — downright gory at times — and suggestive more of horror. But in the end, the story is redeeming because it portrays an inside view into the unimaginable crimes that police and detectives must deal with, live with, look at, and try to forget; sights that most of us never have to face.

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