Here’s the definitive review of Righteous Assassin. https://newmysticsreviews.blogspot.com/2022/01/a-by-book-police-procedural-review-of.html.
One of the challenges and joys of genre writing is employing a plethora of tried-and-true tropes while bringing in something original and ultimately unexpected. This is hard enough to do with larger genres like the crime thriller, never mind drilling down into smaller loops of the spiral, into the police procedural and, in the case of Righteous Assassin, into the serial killer police procedural.
Within a few pages of Righteous Assassin, I felt deeply at home—not only because I teach about and have written numerous thrillers for the stage, page, screen, and Escape Rooms—but because Chapman was employing all of the genre’s prevalent tropes. His lead character, Mike Stoneman, is a hard-nosed Manhattan police detective who is single, impatient, and given to holding everyone around him to the high standards to which he holds himself. Consider his last name, Stoneman, which is like Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. I used a similar device for my 1940s gumshoe Dirk Manzman. Mike’s partner, Jason, is a Black man who, although educated, experienced, and sharp, rose in the ranks to detective unusually fast, which Mike attributes to affirmative action. Having a new partner at the onset of a difficult case is another police procedural trope. There is a female FBI agent brought in to help with the case. Both she and her tech specialist are also tropes. Rounding out the cast of good guys, there’s a beautiful, shapely medical examiner and pushy crime reporter from the New York Times.
Before I proceed, I want to be clear—tropes are appropriate and largely expected in genre writing, and this is a sub-sub-genre, where we look forward to meeting specific characters and witnessing certain events. Remember: at the level of the sub-sub-genre, the story itself only has a limited number of iterations, which aligns with the real-life elements from which the genre takes its cues. These limited iterations allowed John Douglas and his FBI colleagues to develop the tenets of criminal profiling, giving rise to the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris (which gave us Hannibal Lecter) and its film adaptation, Manhunter. There have been myriad TV procedurals, and the recent Netflix series Mindhunter, all of which use Douglas’s nonfiction books as their primary source material.
If you have studied serial killers, you know modus operandi and signatures define them. There are definite patterns they follow, and they are tracked using very specific methods. Chapman honors all of this, bringing it to page-turning life in Righteous Assassin.
So, how about the serial killer? Similar to real life cases and small and big screen stories, the serial killer here (as you probably guessed from the title) is a religious zealot convinced they are doing God’s good work. Because this is a vigilante-style serial killer, we’re in an even deeper loop in the genre spiral.
By this point, you might be reading this and asking, Why should I bother with this book?
Believe me: The reasons abound. First, Chapman’s voice is strong. Second, the book’s structure (bouncing back and forth between the killer’s online blog; their planning and committing of the crimes; and the police, FBI, and support staff working the case), the dialogue, and the painstaking work the good guys do to track down the killer’s identity are all fresh enough to add plenty of new to the familiar. Third, although the entry points of the various relationships feel familiar, because the characters are, where they ultimately go is not where veteran readers of this sub-sub-genre might expect.
The book also brings up several moral dilemmas because of the serial killer’s vigilante approach and their specific background and experiences. There are several dominant theories about why one becomes a serial killer, and Chapman’s take is refreshing in several aspects.
I also found the stories of the serial killer’s targets and their lovers, partners, and associates to be fearlessly honest—as are Stoneman’s reasons for not trusting his new partner. The overarching themes here are both topical and something we should all be discussing.
I have to note Chapman’s clear focus on research. The information technology aspects, as well as the depth of detail in how the good guys chase clues, interview, and rely on inspiration, are all spot on, giving the novel more than a little believability. I have put down plenty of serial killer novels over the years because all they delivered was surface-area tropes and severely damaged good guys in lieu of subtle backstories and at times conflicting moral actions.
Another reason to read this book is that it is the first in a series, which gives Chapman an opportunity to take the trope of Detective Mike Stoneman and develop him into the kind of nuanced, complex character that rises above genre while enhancing it and raising the bar for authors to come. Doyle did this with Sherlock Holmes, and F. Paul Wilson with Repairman Jack. After all, genres aren’t fixed in their constitution; they grow with new inspirations and, over time, what was once a single author’s new idea becomes another trope.
The other novels are Deadly Enterprise (Mike Stoneman #2), Lethal Voyage (Mike Stoneman #3), Fatal Infraction (Mike Stoneman #4) and, due out in December 2021, was Perilous Gambit (Mike Stonemen #5).
With five books in the series already, there’s no time better time than now to get to know Detective Mike Stoneman, his cast of supporting characters, and their talented creator. (Joey Madia. 1.24.22
October 27, 2019 — Written in perfect tempo, the author has filled his pages with the most enthralling story I have read since my days reading John Grisham. Up to par with any high crime, mystery, thriller novel this story has it all.
Crime, mystery, gore that will have you wincing and even a budding romance.
When the POV switches to the murderers’ trust me, you will be glued to the pages. The author puts you in the murderer’s place. You watch his prey die, which is the most brilliant part of the book and my personal favorite.
Well fleshed out characters are the pinnacle of this story as each has their backstory and their reasons for being in this story.
You will be swept along in this story, turning each page hoping for both the detectives solving the murders and rooting for the “righteous assassins” and who his next ‘worthy’ target will be. Because they all deserved it you are left on the precipice wondering if he is a right, but should he be the judge, jury, and executioner?
When it comes down to it I intend on placing this, my dog eared, much-loved copy of “Righteous Assassin” on my library shelves right next to my Grishams, which will look much the same. Which reminds me… Hey Kevin, send me a signed copy before you become too famous!
Valerie Davisson – 5.0 out of 5 stars — RIGHTEOUS ASSASSIN: A Sinuous Unfolding of a Madman’s Mind
In a Mystery, the reader has to guess ‘Who Done It?” In a Thriller, we get to know the Killer intimately—we read to know how he is going to be caught. How is he going to screw up? How is our hero going to unmask him or her? One of the things I liked about Chapman’s book is that he is not afraid to get into the weeds with some politically incorrect dialogue coming out of his characters’ mouths. Thank you for being real. Being married to a former police officer, I can tell you that their sense of humor is NOT meant for outside ears. They’re very much into gallows humor, to keep their sanity. That said, it also showed the kind of all male, sometimes macho environment female officers, FBI agents, and others have to deal with on an everyday basis.
And he has a lot of great lines, particularly at the end of chapters – his sense of humor comes through loud and clear. All in all, I look forward to reading more of Chapman’s books and would recommend this book as a good, solid read.
Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2019
I read a lot of detective novels- they’re one of my fave genres out there. This book fit right in there with the big names. Well-fleshed-out characters, enough gore to peak my macabre interest in sensationalization, and an interesting villain. Actually, the villain was my favorite part of the book; I looked forward to reading the chapters written in his POV.
Chapman is a skilled author, no doubt, that much is obvious from page one. Im going to be critical for a moment because I believe in his talent and therefore know that other readers will not skip this read just because of my opinion. The details in this book are a bit much. At times is slows the plot and I found myself wanting the next bit of action as opposed to reflection or description. Sentences are well paced, vocabulary is appropriate and appreciated, but at times I just wanted the information and to move on. Mind you, that didn’t keep me from turning the pages as quickly as I could to follow the investigation and get to the resolution.
I will look for more from this author and anxiously await the next book in this series.
The writing is excellent, with a good mix of believable dialog and descriptive storytelling. The main characters – Mike Stoneman, Detective Jason Dickson (the partner), and Dr. Michelle McNeill (the love interest and Medical Examiner) – are well developed, although the times Dr. McNeill ‘giggled’ seemed a bit out of place. The pacing was excellent. As the killer planned his murders for the last Saturday of the month, there was always a countdown to make the detectives sweat and to keep our stomachs in a knot. And there was even some humor that I enjoyed, such as Dickson trying to help Stoneman with his budding relationship with McNeill. But other quips, particularly some of the stationhouse humor, seemed a bit juvenile and crass.
Overall, Righteous Assassin is a somewhat prototypical, crime thriller that sets itself apart with excellent writing, good character development, edge-of-your-seat pacing, and significant, sometimes explicit violence.
A MOB BOSS IS EATEN ALIVE BY TIGERS AT THE BRONX ZOO? I was hooked and just had to read this book!
The prologue immediately grabbed my attention and by the end of the first chapter, I knew I was going to read this book in one sitting. As I like to say: lock your doors, turn off your telephones, curl up in your favorite chair and get lost in another world for a few hours…
Told from the points of view of what the killer (the Angel of the Lord) is thinking and the “real world” case investigations, led by NYPD homicide Detectives Mike Stoneman and Jason Dickson. They are joined by Angela Manning, an FBI agent and New York Medical Examiner Michelle McNeill in their rush to find and stop a serial killer. As the investigation continues, so do the killings, each one is stranger than the last…
This was a decently-paced thriller… It turns out that the killer was writing, not just thinking, his parts of the story… As the investigation progressed, the clues began to unfold… The suspense was heart-pounding at times, the story demanded that you pay attention. Twists and turns, a shock or two, a connection I completely missed and reveals worth the wait!
A soldier released from the military due to psychological discharge, a string of murders around New York City, and a criminal investigation team hellbent on solving their case.
The book is everything you would expect from a well-seasoned writer, great cover, perfect editing, and a story well crafted with an introduction, conflict, confrontation and a stellar climax. I will admit, it was a bit long for my taste, and seemed to drag on whenever there were large blocks of the detective’s putting together their thoughts in the kill room. I would lose interest during those bits, but then, the psycho killer, who very much reminded me of Ellis’ Patrick Bateman, would renter the story and the nail-biting suspense would begin again. Overall, I was very impressed with this story and was not surprised at all to learn that Chapman won first place in a writing competition for the prequel to Detective Stoneman’s story.
Kevin Chapman is an excellent writer. One of the things I look for in a book is whether or not the author keep track of point-of-view. Except for one or two gray areas, Chapman kept track of point-of-view throughout the book. The number of characters in this police story made it essential to keep track of point-of-view, and Chapman delivered.
“Righteous Assassin” is well plotted, and for the most part, Chapman presents an accurate picture of police work on a difficult case. Unaccountably, there are several lapses. For example, why didn’t they check the killer’s military DNA? Why didn’t they cover all three escape routes from one assassination site? Compared to the overall story, however, these lapses are minor.
“Righteous Assassin” sits at the top of a popular genre – must reading for fans. For the general reader, this book still works very well. You will not be disappointed. I give it 4.5 stars, rounded to 5-stars because of the fine writing.