“The Evil Men Do” opens with the story of a little girl who knows things because she is a good listener and a good observer. Consequently, she easily notices the vehicle that had been following them, a Toyota truck.
McMahon switches to a first person narrative by detective P. T. Marsh. March gives readers matter of fact descriptions, factual and precise, as if writing a report. Details are complete from the blinds covering the windows to his approach from the left, waiting for his partner. Countering these clinical observations is his additional narrative in a different tone, more personal, more emotional, more hesitant, and more tragic. Readers get to know Marsh well. He is haunted by perceived mistakes in the past, and feels guilty for things not done. Nonetheless, he is dedicated to his job and to the law.
Geography unique to Georgia adds to the atmosphere. Weedy green kudzu climbs out of the Georgia mist, covering the pine trees like an old sock. The skies are an odd mix of grays and purples; maybe it is pollution from Atlanta, or maybe rain is on its way.
Detective Marsh and partner, Remy Morgan are compelling characters. Their job is to find the evidence, line up the pieces, and fit them together into a story of the crime. In this case, they find too many pieces that do not fit; perhaps there is more than one puzzle involved in this story. Events from the past also creep into the narrative. A prior death, a lawsuit, a possible payout to family of the dead, and the possible inappropriate use of force by PT all hang like dark clouds over the investigation. When readers discover the identity of the little girl, things change rapidly and dramatically. The case gets bigger not smaller.
I received a review copy of “The Evil Men Do” from John McMahon and G.P. Putnam’s Sons. McMahon created a story full of evil men, but there is good in it too, a goodness that flourishes and survives regardless of circumstance.