Monday 24 June 2019



Frank Marr was a good cop, until his burgeoning addictions to alcohol and cocaine forced him into retirement from the DC Metro police. Now, he's barely eking out a living as a private investigator for a defense attorney - also Frank's ex-girlfriend.

Ostracized by his family after a botched case that led to the death of his baby cousin, Jeffrey, Frank was on a collision course with rock bottom. Now clean and clinging hard to sobriety, Frank passes the time - and tests himself - by robbing the houses of local dealers, taking their cash and flushing their drugs down the toilet. When an old friend from his police days needs Frank's help to prove he didn't shoot an unarmed civilian, Frank is drawn back into the world of dirty cops and suspicious drug busts, running in the same circles that enabled his addiction those years ago.

Never one to play by the rules, Frank recruits a young man he nearly executed years before. Together - a good man trying not to go bad and a bad man trying to do good - detective and criminal charge headfirst into the DC drug wars. Neither may make it out.

Trigger is the third and possibly the last in the Frank Marr series, featuring the drug addicted ex-cop, turned PI. I'm kind of hoping it isn't because I've enjoyed all three in the series.

Marr here is trying to turn his life around. He's off the drugs, but still flirts with temptation by robbing drug dealers for cash, to supplement his income. The thing he had with Leslie - friend and sometime employer - is over, but at least she's talking to him now. His only friends, loose ones at that are those he made when working as a cop. He's pretty much on his own.

Our tale here concerns itself with Frank trying to help his ex-partner Al. Al has been suspended and is under investigation for the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, resulting in his death. Al swears the kid was armed, the evidence or lack of it seems to indicate otherwise.

Marr conducts his own investigation into the shooting, tracking down reluctant witnesses, interrogating Al and dealing with his confidential informant, who he was meeting with immediately before the teenager was killed. Along the way he forms an unlikely alliance with a character encountered in the first book.

I like the way Marr works, unbound by the constraints of normal police rules and regulations. He's not above breaking the law, using physical threats or intimidating tactics to bring him closer to the truth. I enjoyed the look at the seedy side of DC, the drug gangs, the low level dealers and the way they operate. I enjoyed Marr's company on surveillance and his meetings with the police, his sharing of information and the uncovering of his ex-partner's dirty secret along the way. I like the way he tries to protect his friend by limiting what he shares.

It was interesting to see how he bonded with Calvin, his reluctant apprentice with the evolution of their relationship throughout the book. Their relationship moving from hatred and distrust, to something more solid and hopeful. There's a lot to be said for second chances and forgiveness.

I quite enjoyed seeing the investigation - mainly unofficial - into the death of a black teenager at the hands of a cop. It's a subject that has been prominent recently with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent highlighting of shootings and deaths by the police. Here our focus is mainly from the perspective of the shooter, as opposed to from the side of the victim, but Marr (and Swinson) is even-handed in pursuit of the truth, regardless of the consequences for his friend. It does highlight the complexity of a lot of incidents...... the situation, the perceived danger, the lighting, the speed at which events unfold, the confusion, the fear, the panic, the decision-making, the instincts, the training... not everything is as simple as black and white.

Topical, interesting, relevant, entertaining, decent characters, decent pace, enjoyable setting, plenty of action, not over-long, satisfying outcome - all plusses for me.

4.5 from 5

The two earlier Frank Marr books are The Second Girl and Crime Song. Trigger can be enjoyed as a standalone, but if you're a bit OCD like me you may want to start at the beginning. I'd don't think you'll be sorry if you do.

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 352
Source - initially Net Galley, courtesy of Mulholland Books, but I bought a copy after my link expired
Format - ePub read on laptop (50%), trade paperback (50%)


  1. You know, it's funny, Col. I usually don't go for the 'deeply damaged protagonist' sort of crime novel. But Frank sounds like an interesting character, and it sounds as though he's evolving a little as the novels go on - even better. Glad you liked this one.

    1. Margot he is definitely more likeable than in the first couple of books. Evolving is a great way of describing the changes in him. Controlling some of his addictions hasn't made him any less interesting either, which is a plus.

  2. Swinson has had an interesting life, including being a cop. The Frank Marr books are on the list. Thanks, Col.

    1. Elgin, I hope you enjoy the series if you ever get around to it. I'll be keeping an eye out for his next book.

  3. I have said this before, but I am going to have to seek out the first book in the series. I like the cover designs too.

    1. I hope you enjoy it when you get to it, Tracy. I think the set of covers for the three Frank Marr books are pretty amazing.

  4. Another author I really oughter try . . .