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The Zero Night: A Jonathan Stride Novel

Review

The Zero Night: A Jonathan Stride Novel

THE ZERO NIGHT, the 11th installment in Brian Freeman’s first-class Jonathan Stride series, introduces us to a keen mystery before flowering into an outstanding character-driven piece about Stride and his wife, Serena.

The initial case involves defense attorney Gavin Webster, whose wife, Chelsey, has gone missing. The striking opening scene finds a drenched Gavin sitting on a bench during a fierce storm along the dock of the raging Lake Superior waters in Minnesota. He has paid  $100,000 in ransom money to the men who kidnapped Chelsey, but he has not heard back from them. So after three hours of waiting, he contacts the Duluth Police. Maggie Bei takes that call and handles the initial questioning of Gavin.

"Freeman produces some of his most poignant work to date describing Serena’s personal struggles throughout the book."

Maggie is suspicious after learning that Gavin recently came into a three-million-dollar inheritance following the death of his sister. It also turns out that he is connected to several shady business dealings that include a large illegal underground gambling ring, one to which he may owe a ton of money. So Maggie starts to think that Gavin himself may have been the mastermind behind his wife’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, Detective Serena Stride learns of the unexpected death of her estranged mother, Samantha. Even though there was no love lost between them, Samantha’s passing affects her enough to impact her performance on the job, and Maggie is forced to remove her from the Webster case. As a result, Maggie reaches out to her former boss, Jonathan Stride, who has been away from the Duluth Police for more than a year after nearly losing his life when he was shot through the heart on his last assignment. He initially agrees to come back to work on some long-open cold cases before eventually being pulled into the Webster investigation.

As for those cold cases, I was pleasantly surprised to find my own name included in the group. Ray Palen, an accountant from a local independent brewery, had been missing for 15 months when his car was found at Fish Lake with no evidence of foul play, and he has not been seen since. I hope that Stride eventually dives into this case to save Ray and return him to what sounds like a really cool job!

Freeman produces some of his most poignant work to date describing Serena’s personal struggles throughout the book. To begin with, the harsh memories of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother are serious, as well as the extreme hardships they faced while being homeless during her youth. Serena has had to battle alcoholism to the point that she wakes up each night after midnight and counts to herself how many days she has been sober. The number gets to over 6,000 but is suddenly vanquished at a bar, where she seriously falls off the wagon. This night has become her “zero night” as her running tally is wiped out.

Adding to Serena’s story is the bond that she develops with her adopted daughter, Cat, who is now a student at UMD. Serena clearly remembers from her zero night seeing a vision of a victim from a prior case, Nikki Candis, who died by suicide. Nikki’s death never sat well with her, and she always felt that she had missed something. This is where she truly connects with Cat as she needs her help getting in touch with Nikki’s daughter, Delaney, who happens to be a fellow UMD student. Meeting Delaney will allow Serena to pursue that case in her own way, and it opens her up to many feelings she did not expect to have while grieving for her mother.

Brian Freeman continues to show his mastery of the mystery/thriller genre with the addition of THE ZERO NIGHT to his array of bestselling novels. Let’s hope that he sends Jonathan Stride down the road of that Ray Palen cold case so that my namesake can finally get some peace!

Reviewed by Ray Palen on November 23, 2022

The Zero Night: A Jonathan Stride Novel
by Brian Freeman

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1094082341
  • ISBN-13: 9781094082349