On Lonesome Roads
by Dan Flanigan
Arjuna Books

"Her dad was a whole different thing altogether. He was like some wounded monster. She still loved him, even idolized him, some parts of him."

As the third book in a series of novels about Peter O’Keefe, the stakes are as high as they’ve ever been. Chaos and mayhem are practically guaranteed regardless of the outcome. After a bomb blast nearly claims the protagonist’s life and upends all sense of normalcy, all those around him acknowledge that even for him, someone known for getting himself in trouble, this was next level. Set in 1988, the novel transports audiences to the dying days of the Italian mafia as more and more Italian communities found themselves entrenched and assimilating into modern society.

The narrative begins on the heels of the demise of O’Keefe’s childhood friends: Beverly Bronson, mayoral candidate Jerry Jensen (under suspicious circumstances), and David Bowman, the character previously presumed to be the perpetrator. Despite going through the recovery process, O’Keefe is unable to suppress his detective genes, hounding sergeants and officers in hopes that they’ll unearth the smoking gun. Having had his fill of the armed guards following him around everywhere, even on organized visits with his eleven-year-old daughter, Kelly, O’Keefe instead is surprised with a security dog, Karma, from his friend and partner, George Novak.

Flanigan’s novel expertly captures the spirit of the time, delving into a portrait of the late Twentieth century in its depiction of the mafia on its last legs, drug-fueled escapades, corruption in full bloom, and a tantalizing cast of players who are perfectly flawed—interesting enough to create a need to know their fate and story while simultaneously knowing that they are far from perfect human beings and mostly operate in the gray area. While the press and police are convinced that the Italian mob organization formerly spearheaded by Carmine Jagoda is involved, O'Keefe isn't so sure, but the journey to getting any tangible evidence is mired with frustrating twists and turns that will undoubtedly be sources of delight for readers.

On one hand, O’Keefe is determined to uncover the truth, while on the other, his grip on his family, chiefly his daughter, is being loosened by his ex-wife Annie, who is now in a relationship with another man named Darren. A lover of Nancy Drew and, of course, being her father’s daughter, Kelly has an uncanny eye for uncovering mysteries and recognizing when something is out of place. She is convinced that there is something off about Darren and seeks out every opportunity to learn more about him and who he was prior to meeting her mom.

Though a scintillating plotline is certainly an alluring aspect of the work, the characters drive the story, moving it forward with such a frenetic pace that every character seems to get some shine, whether that be O’Keefe’s friend and confidante Mike Harrigan or the always-on-the-hunt Russell Lord, United States attorney. In the same vein but with greater ferocity, the author uses the character of former convict Pascal McKenna to dictate the pace of the storyline through carefully crafted Herald editorial pieces, particularly those featuring O’Keefe and his life’s unraveling.

Perhaps what makes O’Keefe so intriguing is that, unlike other detective protagonists, he is susceptible. He is an intelligent but vulnerable lead who empathizes with Rose Jagoda, the new kingpin, a woman who is leading the mafia business. This, of course, leads numerous folks feeling awry, not to mention leaving O’Keefe exposed for further attack.

Above all else, the author is a wizard of wordcraft, expertly weaving in numerous storylines while dynamically paving the path for the characters with challenges and then helping them steer through with plausible outcomes. Throughout, Flanigan’s work is one of the few works of suspense where the reader is left guessing until the very last minute, making for a nail-biting page-turner that deserves to be savored and explored deeply.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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