Empty Rooms By Jeffrey J. Mariotte

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Richie Krebbs is an ex-cop, a walking encyclopedia of crime and criminals who chafes at bureaucracy. Frank Robey quit the FBI and joined the Detroit PD, obsessed with the case of a missing child and unwilling to leave the city before she was found. When Richie unearths a possible clue in one of Detroit’s many abandoned homes, it puts him on a collision course with Frank-and with depths of depravity that neither man could have imagined.

I have to give this book Five Stars…..because any book that’s not in my usual genre, is fraught with trigger issues for me, and still makes me devour it in big, gulping chunks must be a helluva book.

I’m a mother and a teacher, so I have huge issues with child molesters and books that deal with child molesters. Forget vampires and werewolves and other things that go bump in the night — any more, it’s the depravity people show towards the most innocent of us that gets me screaming in the night.  However, when Jeffrey Mariotte offered up an ARC of this book to me, I decided to go ahead and read it for him for review.  Since this is a trigger issue for me, I checked how many chapters there were and decided to read about 8 chapters a day.  It would take me about a week to read it that way, but it would also give me time to find a “happy” book to balance out the intensity.

Night One, I made it through the 8 chapters with no problem.  Still getting the story set up and getting to know the characters.  Missed the next night because of Life, so the following night, I decided to double up, so I wouldn’t mess up the Schedule.  Stopped at an intense part and was tempted to go on, but…. no, Must.  Stick.  To.  The.  Schedule.  Missed the following night (again, Life!), so the next day, determined to only read 16 chapters, I ended up reading…. 32, thus finishing the book.  So much for the Almighty Schedule.

So, what made me devour the book?  It has all the elements of a thriller that I love–suspense, elements that come together in ways that you don’t expect, characters with issues themselves and how they work through them.  It’s an intense novel, tautly written.  Bad things happen, but there’s always a thread of redemption woven through.

The child molestation aspect of this story is handled with sensitivity–no gratuitous depictions, although there is no doubt in your mind what probably goes on.  I also like how Detroit becomes as much a character as Richie or Frank.  Detroit may be in its death throes, but I can’t help but hope that like the legendary phoenix, it, too, will rise from it’s ashes better than it was before (and I learned something new….who knew that there were actual salt mines under the city?  Really, there are!)

Frank Robey and Richie “Maynard” Krebbs work well together.  Frank is a more “old school” detective, who doesn’t get along with his partner (I’d love to see more of that dynamic), and Richie is a former Detroit PD officer who is more interested in the psychology of the criminal mind.  Also in the mix are Richie’s wife, Wendy and Frank’s girlfriend, Marcia.  Both women are frustrated by their men, but recognize that their obsession with this case (more intellectually for Richie, and more personally for Frank–at least at first), is part of who they are.

Upshot of this:  if Jeffrey Mariotte writes another “Robey and Krebbs Casefiles,” you can be sure I’ll be first in line to get my copy.  Yeah, it’s good enough to make me jump genres and dwell in the dark shadows of the human psyche.

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