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TRIGGER makes for wonderfully dark reading. The point of its spear is Frank Marr, an ex-Washington, D.C. cop with a troop of monkeys on his back. Frank was introduced to the world by author David Swinson --- a retired D.C. police detective himself --- in the acclaimed novel THE SECOND GIRL, the promise of which was fulfilled and exceeded by CRIME SONG. This final book in the trilogy finds Frank walking a fine and precarious line as he attempts to aid an old friend while unexpectedly serving as a mentor to a former adversary, all the while fighting his own very strong and ever-present demons.

Frank’s substance addiction forced him into early retirement from the Washington, D.C. Metro Police department. Bouncing back from a rock bottom hard landing, Frank supports himself with a public job as a private investigator working for Leslie, a defense attorney who happens to be his ex-girlfriend. He also does a bit of work under the table, if you will, robbing the stash houses he became acquainted with as a detective and using the cash proceeds to supplement his income and do a little good on the side, even as he constantly tests himself by flushing the drugs he confiscates down the sewer rather than his own body.

"This series was originally conceived as a trilogy, but the complexities of the character as well as the secondary players are too original and interesting to be consigned to the dust bin."

The bedrock of TRIGGER is more of the same, but there is a new wrinkle. Al Luna, Frank’s best bud from his police days, is in a world of trouble for shooting an unarmed suspect. Al is adamant that the guy was armed and pointing a gun at him, but the weapon cannot be found. The shooting is investigated while there is, of course, a rush to judgment on the streets. Frank uses his street contacts to work backward, trying to ascertain what the now-deceased suspect was doing in the hours leading up to his fatal confrontation with Al. Tamie Darling, a longtime informant used by both Frank and Al, figures in the story as Frank uncovers some uncomfortable truths about his friend that he wishes he hadn’t.

Meanwhile, Frank meets up with a figure from his past: a young gangbanger known as Playboy (real name: Calvin), whose life Frank spared when he didn’t really have to do so. The two circle each other gingerly, but Frank sees something in Calvin and takes a chance, bringing him on as a paid associate with an angle toward accessing the street that Frank doesn’t have. The partnership is uneasy at first but tentatively and gradually becomes productive for both men, even as a fragile trust --- that most precious of commodities --- is constructed between them.

As Frank comes ever closer to obtaining the truth of what occurred on that fateful night, the street becomes increasingly dangerous for him as he becomes a target by virtue of his association with Al. At the same time, Frank’s addictions wait patiently for a slip and a fall. It will take all of his strength and street knowledge to see his way clear to the other side of his dilemma. It may not be enough, though.

The conclusion contains resolution --- some satisfactory, some otherwise --- on all fronts, but certainly leaves the door open for more stories in the future. This series was originally conceived as a trilogy, but the complexities of the character as well as the secondary players are too original and interesting to be consigned to the dust bin. We’ll have to wait and see if Swinson will continue the story --- perhaps in another three-book arc --- but for now we have TRIGGER and its predecessors, all of which are worth your time and money.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 8, 2019

by David Swinson

  • Publication Date: February 18, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Mulholland Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316264261
  • ISBN-13: 9780316264266