Bad decisions have finally caught up with police detective Karen Seagate. Her drinking has destroyed her marriage and hurt her job performance, and the chief is looking for any excuse to fire her. Still, she and her new partner, a young Mormon guy who seems to have arrived from another century or another planet, intend to track down whoever killed Arlen Hagerty, the corrupt leader of Soul Savers. Clawing his way to the top, Hagerty created plenty of enemies, including his wife, his mistress, his debate partner, the organization’s founder, and the politician he was blackmailing. When Seagate causes a car crash that sends a young girl to Intensive Care, the chief thinks he finally has his opportunity. But even the chief can’t believe what Seagate does when she finally catches the killer.
MY FIVE STAR REVIEW OF MIKE MARKEL’S “BIG SICK HEART”
Mike Markel’s Big Sick Heart is the first in his series featuring detectives Karen Seagate and Ryan Miner. It is one of the best written and compelling detective novels I’ve had the pleasure to read.
Like most detective yarns, this one centers around a mysterious murder. Seagate and Miner are assigned to solve it. But that’s just the framework within which the real story unfolds, Senior Detective Seagate’s struggles with the inner demons ripping her apart.
This is unquestionably the best character reveal I’ve come across in some time. Markel does not throw Seagate at us all at once. We get to watch her crumble bit by bit like a week old oatmeal cookie. It is not a pretty sight. But instead of disliking Seagate, we root for her to get her life together. Even after she does something that most would deem unforgivable.
The character of her partner, Ryan Miner, is equally well developed. He is young and idealistic but has inner strength that Seagate comes to rely on as the murder they are investigating turns darker and darker.
There is a scene about midway through the story when Seagate has a complete meltdown, aiming her fury at Miner. It is so well written, the dialogue so raw and acidic, that I wanted to yell at her, “Stop! Stop!” Not often that words on a piece of paper evoke that kind of response from me.
Mike Markel is a master storyteller. If you’ve been waiting for a book that’s a punch in the gut, this is it. Can’t recommend too highly.
MIKE MARKEL teaches writing at Boise State University and is the author of many articles and eight books about writing and literature.
He also writes the Detectives Seagate and Miner Mystery series, which is set in the fictional small city of Rawlings, Montana, home of Central Montana State University. That university is somewhat like Boise State University, but in Rawlings the weather is colder, the football team less successful, and the murder rate much, much higher.
Mike lives with his wife in Boise.