Vice & Virtue
by Justin M. Kiska
February 14 – March 11, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
Vice & Virtue
A Parker City Mystery #2
Justin M. Kiska
Level Best Books, February 2022
From the publisher—
Parker City, 1984…
Three years after the Spring Strangler case rocked the historic Western Maryland city nestled at the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, life has returned to normal for Detective Ben Winters and his partner, Tommy Mason. With a new chief now leading the department and the city slowly crawling out of its economic distress, everything seems to be moving in the right direction.
Until one sweltering summer day, a killer begins targeting police officers. Ben and Tommy find themselves once again leading an investigation the likes of which Parker City has never seen. The detectives quickly come to realize that until the shooter is found, everyone wearing a badge is in danger. To complicate matters even further, when a recently unearthed skeleton mysteriously connects to the string of police homicides, Ben and Tommy begin to think their current case may be tied to events twenty years earlier.
But how could a skeleton buried two decades ago hold the key to solving their current case?
Not long ago, I was thinking about all the subgenres of crime fiction and that my tastes really hadn’t changed in a very long time. I read lots of traditionals, cozies, private investigators, true crime, thrillers, etc., but not much in the way of noirs, hardboiled, romantic suspense. One subgenre that has always appealed to me is police procedural and I’m forever looking for the next good one, either standalone or series and, in Vice & Virtue, I think I’ve “discovered” another.
Ben Winters and Tommy Mason have a partnership I really enjoyed getting to know and, as the novel moved along, they grew on me as just people, people I wouldn’t mind hanging around with in real life. These detectives are driven to solve crimes and this cop killer case has taken on a life of its own, not surprising since the targets are their own colleagues.
As Ben and Tommy delve deeper into this case as well as the unearthed skeleton from years ago, I appreciated the author not indulging in the overused trope of cops with baggage. That has become tiresome, in my opinion, partly because we all have baggage of some sort and, too often, it feels like the author is just padding the word count, drifting away from the core story. So, my thanks to Mr. Kiska.
Bottomline, this second book was my introduction to a series I think I’m going to enjoy and now I’m going to go hunt down the first book, Now & Then.
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2022.
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An Excerpt from Vice & Virtue
Tall and athletic, Tommy Mason always reminded Ben of Tom Selleck’s Magnum P.I. character from television. Tommy always had that whole ruggedly handsome thing going for him. Mixed with a little bit of a “bad boy” vibe and he drove the women wild. Next to Ben’s clean-cut, buttoned-down appearance, their pairing caused many to do a doubletake. At first glance, they appeared to be complete opposites. But as one got to know them, they were very much alike. Each brought out the best in the other and at the end of the day, it was all about getting the job done. Sure, each had his own style, but that’s what made them such a formidable team. Tommy’s apparent willingness to skirt the rules was always offset by Ben’s ability to find ways to use the rules to their benefit. Just as Ben’s refusal to play the internal politics game allowed Tommy to use his charm to keep too many feathers from getting ruffled amongst the powers-that-be. They each knew the other’s strengths and weaknesses and how to adapt them to their own, which is why they’d been so impressive in getting the PCPD’s Detective Squad off the ground. “What are you doing here?” Ben asked, more than a little surprised to see his partner. “Shirley from Dispatch called me. She thought I’d be interested,” Tommy explained. “And before you say anything about what I’m wearing, I just want to remind you, it is our day off, so I didn’t think I needed to get dressed up to come to a potential crime scene. Especially when we don’t actually know this is a crime scene yet.” He was referring to the fact he had on a T-shirt and comfortable pair of jeans, as opposed to the full suit and tie Ben was wearing. “Besides, now you don’t have to worry about getting your fancy suit muddy. I have no problems getting down there in the dirt,” Tommy smiled, pointing at the fresh mud stains on his knees. With that, he knelt back down to take another look at the exposed skeletal remains under the floorboards. “So, tell me. What do we have?” Ben asked, crouching next to Tommy so he could get a better look. “You can see there’s a pretty big cavity here under this part of the floor,” Tommy pointed out. “It’s got to be a good ten by ten area where the ground has been eaten away, even though it’s not too deep, less than a foot in some places. It’s definitely because of water…there’s a lot of mud down there. As the earth under the floor eroded, it uncovered the skeleton. Partway, at least. Of course, no one could see what was happening under here until our friend Mr. Haggarty had the unfortunate experience of stepping on a board that was rotted through and it snapped, sending him falling through the floor. You can see where he landed in the mud. “And right there,” Tommy pointed, “you see the skull and top portion of the skeleton sticking out of the ground.” “You came face-to-face with that thing, man?” Tommy looked over at the construction worker who was leaning against the wall. “Not a good way to start the day.” “Yeah. You’re telling me,” Haggarty answered. Turning back to the skeleton, Tommy said, “I’m no expert, but that hole in the skull right there…see it, it looks like it could be a GSW from a pretty heavy caliber gun.” Leaning down and twisting his head so he could try and get a better look at the skull, Ben saw the hole and wondered if his partner was right. Finding a skeleton buried under the floor was one thing. Finding a skeleton buried under the floor with a bullet hole in its skull was something else. It took everything to a different level. Standing and stretching their legs, Tommy said, “When Shirley first called me, I thought this was going to have been some kind of prank. Some kids snuck into the site on a dare and left a skeleton for the crew to find.” “You thought kids somehow buried a skeleton under this building in the hopes someone would fall through the floor and find it?” Ben asked, raising an eyebrow. “Not to mention having to figure out how to bury the thing under the floor?” “In my defense,” Tommy started, raising a finger and shaking it at his partner, “I didn’t know the skeleton was buried under the warehouse. I just knew they’d found a skeleton at the warehouse.” The first thing that needed to happen was to get the skeleton out of the ground. That would be up to the crime scene techs. Even though he could easily reach in and pull the skull out to get a better look, Ben didn’t want to disturb anything more than it already had been when Lance Haggarty crashed through the floor. Thankfully, he hadn’t actually landed on the skull itself. “So much for our day off,” Ben said, looking at his watch, wondering where the crime scene guys were. *** Excerpt from Vice & Virtue by Justin M. Kiska. Copyright 2022 by Justin M. Kiska. Reproduced with permission from Justin M. Kiska. All rights reserved.
About the Author
When not sitting in his library devising new and clever ways to kill people (for his mysteries), Justin can usually be found at The Way Off Broadway Dinner Theatre, outside of Washington, DC, where he is one of the owners and producers. In addition to writing the Parker City Mysteries Series, he is also the mastermind behind Marquee Mysteries, a series of interactive mystery events he has been writing and producing for over fifteen years. Justin and his wife, Jessica, live along Lake Linganore outside of Frederick, Maryland.
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Interesting review! Sounds like a fine read.
Thanks for the review. So glad you liked this one!!
Thanks, Lelia! I’m glad you enjoyed VICE & VIRTUE!