Saturday 23 March 2019



He's a good detective...with a bad habit.

One of the best crime novels of 2016! - The New York Times Book Review, Booklist

Frank Marr knows crime in Washington, DC. A decorated former police detective, he retired early and now ekes a living as a private eye for a defense attorney. Frank Marr may be the best investigator the city has ever known, but the city doesn't know his dirty secret.

A long-functioning drug addict, Frank has devoted his considerable skills to hiding his usage from others. But after accidentally discovering a kidnapped teenage girl in the home of an Adams Morgan drug gang, Frank becomes a hero and is thrust into the spotlight. He reluctantly agrees to investigate the disappearance of another girl--possibly connected to the first--and the heightened scrutiny may bring his own secrets to light, too.

Frank is as slippery and charming an antihero as you've ever met, but he's also achingly vulnerable. The result is a mystery of startling intensity, a tightly coiled thriller where every scene may turn disastrous. THE SECOND GIRL is the crime novel of the season, and the start of a refreshing new series from an author who knows the criminal underworld inside and out.

The Second Girl is the first in a three book series from David Swinson with ex-cop Frank Marr.  I've already cracked the spine on the second in the series, Crime Song, not too long after finishing this one.

Harsh, brutal, gripping, compelling and harrowing would be appropriate descriptions for the contents of these pages, but that would be underselling what is a fantastic book.

Our main character, Frank Marr was drummed off the force after his drug habit was discovered by his bosses. However he was allowed to retire rather than leave in a wave of bad publicity. A public and shameful departure might open up a raft of appeal opportunities for the criminals Frank spend his career putting away. His old boss hates him and has a hard-on for him. A couple of ex-colleagues are still regarded as friends and sources of information and are oblivious to Frank's cocaine and pill addiction. There's no family in the picture and he makes his living working investigations for another ex-cop turned defence attorney, Leslie. Leslie is a friend - sometimes with benefits.

The story opens with Marr taking down a drug gang stash house in order to boost his own pharmaceutical supplies. After some surveillance, he's pretty sure all the boys are out dealing. What he isn't expecting is to find a young woman chained up in the bathroom, obviously a prisoner, extremely frightened and very reluctant to leave with him. Complications arise when one of the boys returns for a re-up. We soon discover that Frank isn't someone to be messed with.

One good deed, turns to a pain in the ass. Frank gets involved albeit reluctantly in looking for another girl who was a peripheral contact of the first girl he rescued - same school. The family are desperate, the police have no answers and against his better instincts Frank has a look.

Lots to like about this one. Marr is a pretty good investigator and where the police have their rules and regulations in respect of searches and interrogation methods, Frank has a helluva lot more leeway. He's very capable and I do like his style. When questioning the missing girl's friends he can be tactful in front of the parents, but not averse to applying some subtle pressure to get them to break ranks. When questioning some players involved in the operation of the drug dealing and turning nice girls into addicts and prostitutes, well there's a remote river not too far from the city where he can always dump the body if he doesn't get the information he wants.

Interesting seeing a functioning addict in action. He believes he has his addiction under control and for the most part you believe him. He is cautious when using, washes his hands, checks his face for tell-tale signs, but does sometimes need a bump at the most inopportune moments. He maintains his secrets here, but I'm keen to see how the facade plays out in future books.

Great investigation, lots going on with our main character on and off the case,  interesting interactions between Frank and the police and Frank and the low-lives, hard topics explored - teenage prostitution, trafficking, drug dealing, some police corruption and a tense race to find answers and save the second girl.

I think I'm going to enjoy the rest of this series.

4.5 from 5

David Swinson's second and third Frank Marr books are Crime Song and Trigger. He has an earlier novel - A Detailed Man - also published.

Read - March, 2019
Published - 2016
Page count - 368
Source - owned copy
Format - paperback


  1. I don't usually go for the 'troubled, drug-addicted sleuth' type in my reading, Col, but this one sounds interesting. And it sounds like a hard-hitting sort of novel that doesn't let up. Not my usual fare, but that doesn't mean it's not worth looking up when I'm ready for something really gritty.

    1. I hope you enjoy it Margot, if you do take a trip to the gritty side of the street.

  2. I really enjoyed this book, too, Col. David was on the D.C. police force and knows all the ins and outs. Very authentic writing.

    1. Dietrich, I really liked it. It felt real, like you said. I'm looking forward to reading more from David Swinson.

  3. Col, I'm assuming the writing is as gripping as the storyline and the plot. It sounds like an intense read.

    1. Definitely Prashant. I think I'm going to enjoy David's Swinson's books going forward.

  4. This one sounds good, Col. Gritty with other appealing aspects too.

    1. I really liked it Tracy. I'm currently enjoying the second as well and it's just as absorbing.

  5. Sounds good, and not quite so gritty that it puts me off!

    1. I really liked this one, Moira. Just finished the next in the series and loved that one too. I've found another new favourite author I think! Possibly I've failed in my review though because I thought it was quiet dark in places.