Shake Down by Joel Goldman

Shake Down
Shake Down

by Joel Goldman
Kindle Edition, 397 pg
Amazon Digital Services, 2011

Goldman’s pulled off what so many try, and so few succeed: a new (and worthwhile) angle on a procedural that raises it above the masses.

He doesn’t do it with story — I think that’s an almost impossible task — he pulls it off with character. It’s the easiest, and the most effective — characters will stick with you a lot longer than stories. FBI Agent Jack Davis is one of those characters that’s taken up residence in the back of my brain.

Jack’s not doing well — his wife is divorcing him, his adult daughter is doing everything she can to call into question the term “adult” — in recovery (again), dating an undercover FBI agent of dubious character (in Jack’s mind, anyway), he’s still morning the murder of his son years before, and he’s barely hanging onto his career until he can retire with full benefits.

Even this is familiar ground — Jack’s dealing with some sort of undiagnosed neurological disorder causing uncontrollable shakes, momentary blackouts and confusion. And he has to keep this quiet, because the instant the FBI catches a whiff of this, he’s out of a job.

So how does Jack deal with this while investigating a number of drug-related murders? Particularly when it becomes clear to Jack (if not anyone else) that these murders are far beyond simple turf battles. Well, that’s his challenge.

Goldman clearly did a lot of homework for this one — particularly on microexpressions as indicators of truth-telling/lying, and Kansas City history — and it shows. Frequently clumsily. His info-dumps didn’t detract too much from the story, but they sure didn’t add to it.

The procedural part was solid, if uninspired, the requisite twists and turns — ditto for the plot and suspense — basically, the skeleton was there. The flesh he put on it, the characters — not only Jack and his family, but his fellow FBI agents, the suspects, criminals, and bystanders — they brought life to this, and made it better than the sum of its parts.

I’ll be back for more.


3 Stars

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