PUBLICATION DATE: JULY 1, 2012
t doesn’t take long for Houston Homicide Detective Roland March to realize his latest case is anything but routine. The case begins with the discovery of a decapitated and mutilated body on a basketball court, staged such that the victim appears to be pointing at something. Does the posing signal the beginning of a serial killing spree? With very little information to work with, Roland quickly realizes he might not even be able to positively identify the victim, much less solve the crime. Just as he’s beginning to lose hope though, the FBI contacts him with the victim’s name—but much to Roland’s surprise, the victim only exists on paper. In a complex and intricately written novel, Nothing to Hide is a great mystery, complete with numerous plot twists, conspiracies and shocking revelations placed against the backdrop of the present day drug war in Mexico.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been two years since being introduced to Roland March. When I read Back on Murder in 2010, it was obvious that J. Mark Bertrand was a talented author and that it was just a matter of time before one of the Roland March books totally wowed me. Nothing to Hide is that book; I thoroughly enjoyed it. The brooding writing style combined with symbolic inclusions from classic literature, converge to create a brilliantly written novel that’s gripping and highly entertaining.
Bertrand has done a wonderful job of evolving Roland’s character. While I enjoyed Back on Murder, I kept wanting to whack Roland on the head and tell him to just follow the rules. The second book in the series, Pattern of Wounds, started to nudge Roland in the direction of intelligent rule bending and Nothing to Hide completes that transition so that the reader can fully cheer for Roland’s renegade antics. The maturity of Roland’s character is one of the highlights of this novel (and really this series). The introspective nature as well as flashbacks that are included throughout this story helps the reader to better understand Roland and his actions. In the end, his determination to work in the grey area of protocol becomes his greatest strength. This is not something I expected when I first started this series.
Living in Texas, the Mexican drug war that has spilled across the border is on the news most nights. Using the gunrunning aspect of this unfolding story works beautifully. This part of the book feels as though it’s very well researched and how it is incorporated within the story is highly believable. Given the violence that’s inherent with the Mexican mafia, the storyline fit perfectly and gave this book a very realistic feel.
As with all the books in the Roland March series, the investigative process is one of the most fun parts. I have very much enjoyed following Roland through the ups and downs of solving the case. Through the political pressure, tight action, and frustrating dead-ends, this series excels at thrusting the reader into the dangerous and often times inglorious world of crime solving.
Not to be understated in this series is the depth of emotion the characters go through. Bertrand does not hesitate to make some unpleasant and oftentimes heartbreaking decisions in his writing. While some readers might not enjoy the less than upbeat nature of these stories, I find them refreshingly authentic. Additionally, the emotional turmoil of these characters opens the door for natural spiritual dialog and exchanges. While this series does not thump the reader on the head with an abundance of spirituality, it does include good spiritual themes and some excellent Christian characters (who too have evolved with the series).
While I’ve enjoyed each of the Roland March books, Nothing to Hide is my favorite. The plot is intricate and well executed, with plenty of surprises along the way. This book does seem to be the end of the series, though it is open ended enough to allow for the possibility of more. Hopefully we haven’t seen the end of Roland. He’s finally become a very likable character.