Goodbye to the Dead
I am a major fan of the Jonathan Stride series. I have been since its inception in 2005, when Brian Freeman introduced his troubled yet dogged detective to the world. While not Freeman’s only project, it is with Stride that I primarily identify, for reasons that are unimportant here. The newly published GOODBYE TO THE DEAD is the latest installment in the series and arguably its best, a story in which Stride attempts to determine if a past life-changing action of his was wrong and, if so, to ascertain what he can --- and should --- do about it.
"Readers are still discovering Brian Freeman and Jonathan Stride. One can read GOODBYE TO THE DEAD without knowing what has gone before, but be assured that you will want to clear a space on your bookshelf for the other volumes."
GOODBYE TO THE DEAD is divided into two, roughly equal parts: present and past. The tale begins in the book’s present with a short vignette in which Serena Dial, Stride’s fellow detective and love interest, literally stumbles into the murder of a woman at an off-the-grid bar in Duluth. The story then goes several years into the past, to the last year in the life of Cindy, Stride’s wife, before she succumbed to cancer. The couple found themselves to be on opposite sides of a high-profile murder investigation. Janine Snow was a brilliant and successful surgeon who moved from Texas to establish a practice in Duluth. When Janine found herself to be the prime suspect in the murder of her husband, her good friend Cindy took her side and worked to prove her innocence.
Janine had presented a picture to her friends of being trapped in a loveless, abusive marriage to Jay Ferris while attempting to conceal her own issues with substance addiction and serial infidelity. Cindy takes Janine’s side, even as the evidence points convincingly to Janine as the doer. Stride himself was instrumental in gathering the evidence that resulted in Janine’s conviction and incarceration. Nine years later, in the story’s present, Janine remains in prison. A person with close ties to the murder trial is regretting his actions and compiling new evidence to write a book that he hopes will reopen the case and possibly set Janine free.
Meanwhile, the murder that Serena witnessed produces a lone but crucial piece of evidence that threatens to blow up Janine’s conviction. An unexpected tie to a human trafficking ring centered in Duluth is also revealed and may have ties to Ferris’ long-ago murder. The focus of the story, though, is on Stride, who understandably feels terrible guilt at the prospect of having been instrumental in the jailing of an innocent person and, almost equally as important, for having doubted his wife during the last year of her life. His emotions echo throughout the book and far beyond the final paragraph.
Readers are still discovering Brian Freeman and Jonathan Stride. One can read GOODBYE TO THE DEAD without knowing what has gone before, but be assured that you will want to clear a space on your bookshelf for the other volumes. This is a character, and a series, you will remember from book to book.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 11, 2016