This eleventh novel in the series opens with the son of Kevin Kerney. Sergeant Clayton Istee is part of the Lincoln county sheriff’s office these days and likes it much better than when he worked as a patrol officer for the Mescalero Apache Tribal police. Not only does he have plenty of interesting work, he also is the training officer for a newly hired deputy. Not that Tim Riley needed much training. Riley has been a police officer for a number of years so he passed his tests, checked out well, and is out on his first solo patrol. Unfortunately all that training didn’t save his life.


The Santa Fe Police Chief, Kevin Kerney, is unaware that Tim Riley is dead. He knows that Tim is working over in Lincoln County and that his wife, Denise, has been reported missing. A report that he takes seriously since the reporting party is the sister and his long time assistant, Helen. The search of the home and surrounding landscape takes time, but, eventually Denise is found with her throat slashed. Clearly, somebody targeted the husband and wife for death.


The question is why?


Since the cases are linked, law enforcement in both jurisdictions join forces. Chief Kerney is due to retire soon and isn’t about to back off until he helps solve this last major case.  Sergeant Clayton Istee is just as determined especially since he believes he has a spiritual connection to the slain man.


Billed as a Kevin Kerney novel, this isn’t one by any stretch of the imagination. Kerney makes a few appearances throughout the novel along with obligatory appearances by his war traumatized wife, Sarah and his precious son, Patrick.  Instead, it is primarily a novel of Clayton Ishtee and of the many people who populate both their worlds.


As such, Kerney is frequently used to serve as introduction to people who Clayton would do well to know.  Themes of his own, such as the pending loss of his job, the politics within his own department, the politics regarding the task force, and numerous other issues aren’t explored to any depth.


One would think that if he would ignore such issues and primary use Kerney as a way to introduce Clayton Istee to folks, that would mean that author Michael McGarrity would go into depth regarding the Clayton character. That would be mistaken because the author chooses not to go into any depth in this case either. Here, there is another rich minefield of emotion waiting for work and it is, for the most part, ignored totally or only given superficial consideration. Not only does he not explore the fact that, for all intents and purposes, Clayton is losing his father again after only recently finding out about him, he gives lip service to the politics of the task force or the fact that Clayton is having dream visions of the dead. These issues and numerous others are ignored.


Instead, this novel slowly meanders through the point of view of numerous secondary characters and suspects. The constant pov shifts have little depth to them, add little to the story and further slow down a work that already moves very slowly.


The result is not one of the Kevin Kerney novels we know and love. Instead, this is a novel of little style or substance, superficial characters and a distance that is off putting to the reader. A novel that may mark the passing of the New Mexico baton to Clayton Ishtee and a different and far less enjoyable style of writing.


Death Song: A Kevin Kerney Novel

Michael McGarrity

Dutton (Penguin Group)

January 2008

ISBN# 978-0-525-95036-3


293 Pages



Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2008“By The Light Of The Moon”
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