Being stymied by a murder investigation that’s going nowhere is bad enough. Now, Sam and Ski, L.A. Detectives, are being hounded by Kate Newberry, who wants the two investigators to get to the bottom of her grandfather’s seemingly unrelated murder. Reluctantly, this unlikely trio follows an expanding, bi-coastal trail that leads to dozens of potentially related murders with a common HOW. Eventually, the WHY becomes clear. Frantic, can they connect all of the dots in time to determine WHO'S NEXT?
“Fun, fun read! Key Man delivers vivid characters, action and an intriguing plot. Key Man is a police procedural novel for the cerebral reader who likes to be drawn into a well-crafted narrative.”
“Key Man reads like binge watching a Netflix drama/mystery series. Based on my 45 years as a practicing therapist, I can say that the psychological profiles of the characters in Key Man ring true.”
“A gripping read that keeps you on edge as you try to put the pieces of the story together. As the team of unforgettable characters searches for answers at the root of a series of ruthless and targeted murders, we are drawn into their struggle to find the killer. This one is on the short list for our book club!"
Allen K. Huffstutter’s winning new police procedural follows two Los Angeles police detectives on the trail of an unusual serial killer.
When CEO Henry Watson is murdered by car bomb, grizzled LAPD long-timer Sam Siemen and his new partner, introverted rookie Ski Johnson, wind up with the case. The two cops are at a dead end until Katherine Newberry comes to see them. Like Watson, Katherine’s grandfather, Jonathan, was also a wealthy man killed by a car bomb. Katherine is sure the two deaths are connected, and she insists on involving herself in Sam and Ski’s investigation.
As the three discuss their investigation at a bar, they meet Donny Rausch, a stockbroker who, having eavesdropped on their conversation, accidentally gives them the key to the mystery. But there are plenty of twists to go – involving a former call girl, a homeless schizophrenic, and a sleazy time-share salesman, among others – before the killer is brought to justice.
The motive behind the killings is ingenious, and Huffstutter clearly brings his prior experience working in finance to the table. For instance, Donny offers a clear (and well-written) explanation of how and why to short a stock.
Sam and Ski are well-drawn and engaging, each archetypes, yet with quirky personality traits that make them layered and interesting. Huffstutter’s smooth, often witty prose (“The rich aren’t immune from killing off a spouse now and then, so prior investigations had exposed Sam to some pretty snazzy houses”) is a delight.
The plot could be tightened by eliminating point-of-view chapters for some of the minor characters. But this is easily overlooked in light of the overall high quality of the book.
Key Man is an accomplished page-turner that should have particular appeal for fans of Christopher Reich and Michael Sears.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.
Plot: Huffstutter’s novel moves fast and furious and is meticulously plotted. Just when the reader thinks that the detectives have it figured out, Huffstutter throws a curveball into the action and ends the book with a surprise that will leave the reader wanting more.
Prose/Style: Skillfully crafted prose engages the reader, while organic dialogue allows the characters to come alive.
Originality: A surprise ending and a crime that is financially motivated will leave readers enthusiastically waiting for another installment.
Character Development/Execution: Huffstutter balances numerous characters as the novel's mysteries are revealed and pieced together. The characters are true to their roles and grow throughout the story and in tandem with one another. The rookies are idealistic and overly eager, while the experienced ones prove to be more hardened. Readers will cheer for the team of sleuths in this appealing novel.
Rating: 3 of 4 Stars
Sam Siemen and Askeia "Ski" Johnson have reached a dead end while investigating the car bombing that killed Henry Watson. On the verge of filing the case in the "unsolved" folder, the pair of L.A. detectives receive an adamant demand from Kate Newberry. Kate insists that Sam and Ski take over her grandfather's case because Jonathan Newberry died in the same manner as Watson. Skeptical that the two murders are even related, Sam and Ski reluctantly rekindle their investigation into the two grisly events. But as they dig further, a clear pattern of connections develops among Watson's, Newberry's, and at least thirty other car bombings from the last ten years. What does the killer have to gain? How can the detectives find the evidence they need to convict the criminal? And how can they stop this cold-hearted fiend before the next victim goes up in flames?
Key Man was an exciting, page-turning thriller by Allen Huffstutter. The author created a fantastic cast of criminal suspects with well-developed backstories. It was fascinating to discover how these characters were connected to the intriguing case as the book progressed. As Huffstutter started to tie up some loose ends, I appreciated the complexity of the investigation process and the steps involved in collecting the necessary evidence.
However, Huffstutter presented a significant amount of information in the first half of this book that sometimes felt overwhelming. As the novel moved forward, he spent so much time depicting the criminal suspects that I noticed a lack of development among the three protagonists. Huffstutter built up the three dynamic personalities of Sam, Ski, and Kate in the early chapters, but they remained a bit flat throughout the rest of the novel. I was still satisfied with how the team worked together, but I wished there had been more depth to an alluded romantic relationship, and it would have been nice to see Sam open up a little more about his past as his friendships with Ski and Kate grew.
I also had mixed feelings about the story's conclusion, even though I enjoyed the author's writing style and pacing. On the one hand, I appreciated how the author gave a sense of closure at the end of the novel. Still, the final event left me a little short of satisfied because I had to make quite a few assumptions to resolve the case in my mind.
The minor editing issues I noticed didn't distract from my enjoyment of the novel, but the minimal development of the main characters and the questions I still had at the end reduced my rating by one star. Ultimately, when I discovered the motive for the car bombings and witnessed the efforts made to find the evidence, I was convinced that this was a well-thought-out book. Therefore, I give Key Man three out of four stars.
This book would be an excellent read for people who enjoy fast-paced thriller novels. It should also appeal to those who want to read finance-based crime stories with a well-developed list of suspicious characters. The book contains heavy swearing at various points throughout, but there is no erotic content.