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Mark Arsenault: Speak Ill of the Living

 

Crescent Blues Book Views Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover), ISBN 1-59058-139-3

Book: mark arsenault, speak ill of the living
Eddie Bourque works as a freelance writer for the Associated Press and augments his bank account with a position as an adjunct instructor of journalism at a community college in Lowell, Massachusetts. He possesses a penchant for exotic coffees, a feline companion named General VonKatz and a skeleton in the family closet in the form of an older brother named Henry whom he has never met and who resides in prison convicted of murder.

A phone call at four o'clock in the morning wakes Eddie from a sound sleep and provides him with an opportunity to cover an explosive story for the Associated Press. At the time of the initial incident, Bourque covered the story of bank executive Roger Lime's carjacking and murder. The local medical examiner identified Lime's charred remains by dental records some time after the abduction. Now a picture of Lime holding a current issue of the local newspaper turns up in a package mailed to police and seems to invalidate the medical examiner's findings.

Bourque tracks down Dr. Alvin Crane, the coroner who misidentified the bodily remains as that of Lime. Arriving at Crane's home, he finds Crane's body hanging by its neck from a rafter. A note found on the body confesses that Crane deliberately falsified selected medical results over a forty-years period. Examining the body and the room, Eddie finds evidence of someone in the house prior to his arrival. He suspects murder rather than suicide as the cause of death. The police investigators, though belligerent and skeptical of Bourque, find additional forensic evidence to substantiate his suspicions.

As Eddie works on his story, he receives a cryptic message from his brother who claims to know the identity of the murderer and provides information about a piece of evidence which will prove his claim. Calling on contacts at the local paper and the police department, Eddie gets details of his brother's case. Dr. Crane, he discovers, provided the only testimony about blood evidence at the crime scene. Crane's testimony convinced the jury to find his brother guilty. This and other information creates doubt in Eddie's mind about the guilt of the brother he never knew. Now his quest for information includes not only an obligation as a reporter assigned to a story but a fever to discover the truth about his bother Harry's involvement in the thirty-year-old crime.

The investigation takes a number of bizarre twists and turns. Eddie must also unravel a mystifying puzzle left by yet another victim as he searches for the truth. Along the way he narrowly escapes death in an attempt by an unknown assailant to run him down, and before the baffling investigation comes to a close, he literally fights for his life in an adrenalin-pumping action sequence that leads to startling revelations and an unexpected ending.

Readers looking for a taut, fast paced and intriguing tale will find Speak Ill of the Living as stimulating as a cup of one of Eddie Bourque's exotic coffees.

Clint Hunter

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