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Can a mistake make a pathologist lose those he holds most dear? Will it keep him from seeing the truth?

Book Review: A Hard Death by Jonathan Hayes

Helping an old friend in Florida after losing his job and reputation in New York gives Edward Jenner time and space to make decisions. Of course, it would have to be soon; money was running out. A forensic pathologist by trade and brilliant in his field, he is in the area helping as a medical examiner.

Working second fiddle to his friend Doc Roburn his life is more sedate. Covering while the Doc is on vacation, Jenner realizes he will have to make his funds stretch to cover his expenses.

Jenner receives information about some bodies, and as he investigates, he finds not one set of bodies but two. The victims’ cause of death was hanging. Finding two sets of bodies, one set current, and the other from several months prior, is a surprise; hanging is no longer a common form of murder. Many farms and ranches dot the area so when the bodies are of Hispanic decent it is no surprise. Many illegals still work the area, and it will be difficult to establish identities. Deb Putnum from the Ranger service joins the search, and Jenner finds her to be capable as well as attractive. Detective Rudge is also at hand, and Jenner finds comfort in having someone he can trust.

Later, coming on the scene of a car accident, Jenner is shocked to find his mentor as well as his wife in the car, but the deaths are not due to the accident. Both are murdered, and Jenner finds the similarities to the other bodies found to be an odd coincidence. Is it possible the murders are related? Will his professionalism allow him to autopsy his old friend? He is not so sure.

When the murders attract national attention, Jenner is again in the middle of a controversy. The same reporter that dealt his career as a pathologist in New York a death blow is back on the chase with every intention of dragging him down again. Can he do his job and still maintain his distance? Little does he know that his life has just tilted again. He will not only be responsible for his life but that of many of the people involved. Can he find the answers before it is too late? Someone from the force is leaking information, and it takes a deft hand to stay ahead of the killers. Only with answers can Jenner stop the killing, but can he find them in time? His only hint at the truth lies in a small package found in the Doc’s car.

In A Hard Death, Jonathan Hayes has taken a community and cordoned it off from society. Small towns are often close and suspicious, but Jonathan takes it to another level. Jenner is scraping rock bottom, putting his life back together. Losing everything in New York, he is determined to begin again. Unaware how his life will shift with his friend and mentor’s murder, he thinks he can determine the cause of death. When more deaths pile up and those he most loves are in the cross hairs, can he find it within himself to dig out the answers? Hayes has written his character as a fractured soul with the heart of a hero. The character comes to life, and when attacked it becomes personal, as if he is our own family or friend. The depiction of who he is resonates.

His friends and coworkers become our friends and coworkers. When danger and death occur, we are mortified, sad and disheartened. The pathology, done with an eye to the nonprofessional is laid out for easy perusal. Jenner is brilliant. Move over Kay Scarpetta; there is a new pathologist in town.

The story resonates, and I read it in one sitting. I found I could not put it down; I was immersed in the menace and following the danger, willing it all to work out. This would be a great book for a reading group and a must for your library.

If you enjoy thrillers this is a first class read. Jonathan Hayes has found the perfect pace to keep the reader involved from the first page to the last. Make time, for you will not want to put it down.

About Leslie Wright

Leslie Wright is an author and blogger in the Northwest.

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