Tom Harley Campbell has released the second novel in his mystery series set in Dayton, which features the now former police detective John Burke. In the initial book, “Satan’s Choir,” Burke was the head of homicide investigations for the Dayton Police Department when he solved what became his last case prior to retiring.
As this story starts Burke has been retired for a while and enjoying it; playing golf, helping his wife with her gardening, taking it easy. His son, Kevin Burke, now heads up the homicide division. One day a young man arrives at the police station and asks to speak to John Burke.
The youth, Alex Johnson, has traveled by bus from Mississippi to Dayton. While asking for John Burke he declined to provide his own name. Kevin Burke calls his dad to inform him about their mysterious visitor. John Burke agrees to come downtown to talk to him.
Alex has arrived in town to find out more about the death of his father who had been visiting Dayton four years previously when he died under strange circumstances. The body of the elder Williams was found in the river. He had suffered a serious head wound.
Was his demise the result of suicide? A tragic accident? Death by misadventure? Or was this a homicide? Nobody knows. Unsolved, it got relegated to the cold case file. The elder Burke felt haunted by this unsolved case. After meeting the son of the dead man he finds himself getting drawn back into this revived homicide inquiry that has the formerly mellowed out retiree nervously evading ominous SUV’s with blacked out windows.
The author grew up in Riverside and he clearly savors setting his mysteries along the highways and byways of his old home town. In his previous book, “Satan’s Choir,” the mystery revolved around identifying skeletal remains of someone who had been found inside a car that was submerged in Eastwood Lake for decades.
In “Blue Book” John Burke persuades a golfing buddy who is also a retired United States Air Force general to take him inside Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to sniff around for clues. While they are inside WPAFB they encounter a military contractor who ultimately provides Burke with some crucial information.
The title of this novel is derived from the government’s now shuttered Blue Book program. The author weaves in extraterrestrial suspense. Some readers might wonder perhaps if we had alien visitors and whether evidence was suppressed. As this novel unspools the body count rises slowly. Each death is an “accident.”
Some readers will know that there really was a veteran head of the homicide division at the Dayton Police Department named Doyle Burke. In an interview the author explained that naming his protagonist Burke was a total coincidence, he didn’t meet Doyle Burke until after writing these novels. Here’s another unusual twist; when I interviewed the now retired Doyle Burke for his memoir, “Death as a Living,” he mentioned he’s now investigating cold cases for the DPD.
Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit www.wyso.org/programs/book-nook. Contact him at email@example.com.