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Back on Murder

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The Advocate



Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand

Reviewed by Cheryl Russell

"Bertrand has crafted a character with staying power."

“I’m on the way out. They can all tell, which is why the crime scene technicians hardly acknowledge my presence, and my own colleagues do a double take whenever I speak.” Which is why, unlike the not-so distant past, Roland March can’t get his fellow detectives to listen to his hunch. Roland is the one no one wants around and his superiors itch to shove him onto someone else’s roster, hoping the whole time he’ll just walk away from the job. So when he has a suspicion that two cases that couldn’t seem further apart are actually related, no one will listen. In what way could a “houseful of dead gangbangers” and the missing daughter of a Houston evangelist possibly be related? He’s finally given a break to work on the case, but is partnered with a detective that grates his nerves. Roland March wants to rejoin homicide, to prove his worth to his fellow detectives, and this case is his last chance.

March is a cynical homicide detective who has seen too much in his career. But it isn’t the violence on the streets that has put him into a tailspin. A personal loss was his undoing—personally and professionally. He’s trying, against all odds, to reclaim his professional life, but his marriage is teetering on implosion. “Every September we become strangers again, Charlotte taking refuge in her prescriptions, and me in the company of unfamiliar faces…This distance is predictable. We anticipate its ebb and flow. But somehow knowing it will come never quite prepares us.” The man who had devoted his life to solving the most brutal of cases is at a loss to solve the mystery his marriage has become, to uncover the clues necessary to move beyond personal catastrophe.

J. Mark Betrand has crafted a first novel full of twists and turns, mystery within mystery, all told from Roland March’s point of view. Roland’s cynical voice is what makes the novel—he’s carrying on a conversation with the reader, an invisible partner in Roland’s life. It’s a journey that allows the reader to participate in Roland’s highs and lows, his triumphs and mistakes. Every once in a while the hard persona cracks and his pain radiates through—he’s still very much a man overwhelmed with grief, a man desperate to restore his reputation in the homicide division and very much afraid he’ll fail—in both his job and his marriage.

Back On Murder is the first book in the Roland March series. With Roland’s strong personality, Bertrand has crafted a character with staying power. He’s also left a string or two dangling in the novel, enticing the reader to pick up the next book in the series to see what happens next to the Houston detective. I’m hoping Roland will be around a long time—long enough to have a proper retirement from the Houston PD.


Cheryl Russell lives in the Midwest with her husband and three children. Her short stories, as well as a few articles, have been published in print and online. She's loved to read for as long as she can remember and puts all that time to good use writing book reviews for Infuze, Novel Reviews, and Title Trakk. She's also a member of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, FIRST network, Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour and American Christian Fiction Writers. She's currently working on her first novel. If she could, she'd spend her time hanging out in the thermal areas of Yellowstone in general, Norris Geyser Basin in particular. Another favorite spot is Kennicott, an old copper mining town in Wrangel-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, which is at the end of a 60 mile dirt road, 8 hours west of Anchorage. She and her family are frequent hikers in the national parks, and have pounded the dirt trails in Virginia, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and Alaska. You can visit her at her blog, Unseen Worlds or at her website.