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The Root Of All Evil
by Brandt Dodson

Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

"...a tightly convoluted, intriguing mystery worthy of the crime fiction badge ... stands as best in class..."

Following on the heels of his success in Original Sin and Seventy-Times Seven, Brandt Dodson scores another hit with his third entry into the Colton Parker series, Root of All Evil. In Colton Parker, Dodson has found a twentieth century incarnation of the classic pavement-pounding gumshoe, who struggles not only with the difficulties of being a single parent, but also with his anger at God for taking his wife from him. Best of all, Parker is a realistic portrayal of the struggle a man must endure to truly trust in Christ; Dodson could’ve easily led Parker to a formulaic salvation at the end of his first novel, Original Sin, but instead Parker still struggles with his faith and putting his trust in God, promising the reader fertile fields for more character development and growth.

Millionaire businessman Berger Hume is dying, and he has one last request: to find the illegitimate son he coldly denied in his youth and finally make restitution, to do right by the child he once denied as his own. At first, it seems like a fairly easy case for Colton – find the missing son, swap some DNA, cash the huge check he’s been given – and move on to the next case.

However, when he finally tracks down the most likely candidate – a Harley biker with the improbable nickname Pork Chop -- and sets up a clandestine, nighttime meeting, all Colton gets for his trouble is a hail of bullets, and his ailing Ford Escort shot full of lead. Never one to back down from a little gunplay or violence, Parker plunges deeper into the mystery, which turns out to be a gang-land “rabbit-hole” of Alice In Wonderland proportions.

One clue leads to another, and when Parker eventually does find Hume’s son, he also finds much more than he bargained for: a gangland conspiracy with connections to the local mafia, corrupt politicians – even law enforcement, which hits close to home when Parker gets his P.I. license suspended, forcing him to work the rest of the case without the proper authority, something that could land him into ever deeper trouble than he’s already in.

Add that Hume’s sons Denton and Warren aren’t especially enthusiastic about finding their half brother and splitting their expected inheritance with him, Hume’s strangely cold and calculating personal assistant, Ms. Carmichael, and a potentially shady deal involving selling off the Hume family’s ailing hotel business, and you have a tightly convoluted, intriguing mystery worthy of the crime fiction badge. Throughout it all, Parker continues to wonder how he’ll be able to keep his head above the cesspool waters he must tread by necessity, and how he can continue to provide for his daughter Callie – who’s turning into a young lady right before his very eyes, all without her mother.

Root of All Evil stands as "best in class" for recent crime fiction offerings, and the best of the Colton Parker series yet. Dodson continues to write about the law enforcement and private investigation worlds convincingly, and though Parker has grown somewhat and his daughter Callie has begun the healing process, Dodson is taking his time fleshing this out, which reflects how things go in reality.

The prose is sharp, edgy; the first-person narrative convincing and well-written. As a character, Colton Parker is a study in contrasts; a man who has become deeply concerned about his faith and the fate of his daughter, but is continually balanced on the edge separating light from darkness. Like his Christian-crime-fiction contemporary Joe Box (creation of author John Laurence Robinson) Colton Parker is a man balancing the way of faith with the way of the gun, and he’s still not sure which side will win out the day, which is the best kind of draw for the next Colton Parker mystery.

Kevin LuciaKevin Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun Bulletin and The Relief Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened Horizons Vol. 3 & 4, NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus Tales Magazine, Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations, and Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s currently writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and Myspace page.