Friday, December 4th it snowed in Houston. That was yesterday and this is now on a Saturday night. While the rain falls on the city of Houston, a body lays half in and half out of the heated swimming pool behind a posh home. If you don’t look closely, it almost seems as if she is reaching for something on the pool deck.

The young woman is dead and the wounds across her back tell part of the story. Too perfect, too neat, the stab wounds aren’t what killed 24 old Simon Walker. She had been a houseguest of sorts according to Dr. Hill, the homeowner. A Doctor of Literature, she teaches at the University of Houston. Though Simon was not the first female tenant Dr. Joy Hill opened her doors to, she is the first to die on the property.  Of course, Simon’s husband is the primary suspect, especially with their history of marital problems. Something else is at work in the crime too, a possible link to a ten year old murder case, though others involved don’t see it that way at all.

What Detective Roland March does know for sure is that he is on the hunt for a killer in the sequel to “Back on Murder.” This novel builds on that book while showing an author whose writing style has improved significantly. Gone is the MFA character master list checkpoint style of the first book in favor of more depth and nuance of the characters.  While March’s marriage still has issues, despite the misleading jacket blurb, the rift between the couple is not growing. The rift between March and his wife, Charlotte, has changed somewhat due to reasons explained in the book. Furthermore, the theology discussion regarding good/evil and the role of God that comes up several times in the novel actually adds to the complexity of the novel and provides character depth. It also heightens the continuing sense of noir that was present in the first book and is also present here.

While Detective March remains a character on the edge, there is more of a sense of his being in control in the novel up to the last 100 pages or so. As the chase leads him to Huntsville prison, New Orleans and various points around Houston the only real question is will he get his suspect in time? Filled with complex characters, a twisting case, and plenty of nuance and action, “Pattern Of Wounds” by former Houstonian J. Mark Bertrand is a good book in the series and well worth your time.

Pattern Of Wounds: A Roland March Mystery

J. Mark Bertrand

Bethany House


ISBN# 978-0-7642-0638-2

368 Pages

Trade Paperback


Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

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