Many years have passed since I’ve read a crime drama. The last one was a Dick Francis novel (I had read several of his, being a horse person interested in the racing world). Most of my fiction reading, however, is limited to historical novels. But recently I picked up the debut novel, Untold Damage, by Robert K. Lewis, and I zipped through it in less than two weeks (also very unusual for me).
Lewis, a resident of San Francisco, uses that city for the setting of his novel. It opens by introducing the protagonist, Mark Mallen, as an ex-cop junkie, a man deep into his addiction to heroin yet not so deep that he has totally lost the memory of who and what he once was–a successful undercover narcotics cop with a wife and daughter. When a detective visits him with word of the murder of Mallen’s closest friend from his days on the force, Mallen begins a journey to break his addiction and find those responsible for his friend’s murder.
The story is well-paced, the characters clearly portrayed. The dialogue rings true as does Lewis’s knowledge of his subject. Mallen’s struggle to get clean and stay that way is woven throughout the narrative, always there in the background like a dark curtain that threatens to fall over the hero and drag him back to the darkness. The reader easily cheers for him and hopes that he not only stays clean and solves his friend’s murder, but that he may someday find happiness again with his estranged family.
I enjoyed the story being set in San Francisco instead of someplace more familiar like New York City or Los Angeles. We see too much of those cities on television crime dramas. Lewis uses the city and its underbelly of crime and drugs like another character in the story.
There are few novels that I’ve read where I became invested enough in the characters to want to read on after the last page is turned. But I am happy to say that Untold Damage was one of those books. I look forward to Lewis’s follow-up novel, Critical Damage.
Later this week Robert K. Lewis will join me here for a little Q & A about himself and his writing. Stay tuned! In the meantime, check out his blog, Needle City: http://needlecity.wordpress.com/