Sunday, March 7, 2010

The 24th Letter-Tom Lowe

The 24th Letter
Tom Lowe
Minotaur, Mar 16 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312379186

At the U.S. District Court in Orlando, the assassin fires one shot at the chest of convict Sam Spelling who is set to testify against a cocaine trafficker. Father John Callahan visits the dying Sam to receive his last confession and give last rites. Sam tells him that death row inmate Charlie Williams never killed his girlfriend; he names enigmatically someone else and states where the weapon can be found that killed Alexandria Cole. In less than four days, the State of Florida will execute Charlie.

Father John’s friend former cop Sean O’Brien led the Miami police investigation into the South beach homicide. The case never felt quite right though the evidence obviously hung Williams. Now Father John tells him of Spelling’s puzzling death bed confession. The clock is ticking away as an apparent innocent man is about to receive the lethal injection while the real killer of the model is murdering other people to insure no link to the Cole homicide is found. O’Brien with some assistance must figure out what or who is the only clue to identify the culprit, The 24th Letter.

The second O'Brien mystery (see A False Dawn) is an action-packed thriller in which the countdown to the execution hangs over the heads of those who now believe the death row inmate is innocent; especially excruciatingly difficult on the former Miami homicide detective who led the official inquiry. However, the inclusion of implausible incidents to heighten the suspense ironically detracts from an otherwise fascinating tale. O'Brien fears he will be too late to prevent the execution by Sunshine State officials who ignore his plea for a stay so he can complete his second (this time civilian) investigation into the Cole murder.

Harriet Klausner

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