Good mysteries grab you from the get-go and Mission’s simple four-page opening chapter doesn’t disappoint: “In the morning, on the occasion of my forty-eighth birthday, I rode my bicycle, received a text from my best friend, drank a free cup of coffee, and helped pull a dead body from a flooded creek.”
After wrestling the body from between two rocks onto the grass an EMT and a Boulder, Colorado cop gently lifted the body and the impossibly thin young man’s loose trousers slid down revealing him. The cop yanked his trousers up and after the body was removed, one of two college-aged cyclists who had stopped to help “chose to speak, and the wordless eloquence of the moment was indelibly transformed. ‘Dude. Did you see the size of his dick?’ I did. And they did. We all did.”
Thus begins Peter Robertson’s second mystery featuring Tom, a Scottish expat first introduced in Permafrost, a mystery set in Chicago and northern Michigan ten years previously. After learning that this was the second body of a homeless man to be hauled from the surging waters of Boulder creek in the last month, Tom has an inkling that there might be more involved than two unrelated accidents. Tom, a mostly retired businessman who moved from Chicago to Boulder after his marriage ended, leads a routine life funded by a business ably run by his friend Nye so he has the time to follow his hunch.
Tom’s investigations lead him to the Boulder Library where many homeless men and women spend their days, to Faith Community Church on a Sunday night when the homeless guests line up for Dora’s famous meatloaf and a spot on one of the thin mattresses laid out side by side on the church floor, as well as to the bridge over the creek where over forty-four people stood carrying their possessions awaiting a bus to a bed for the night.
Armed with little more than his research into the patterns of Boulder’s homeless and the physiological aberration of the victim he helped pull out of the creek, Tom doggedly searches for a reason for the drownings. Those who read Permafrost will appreciate Tom’s evolution into a more multi-faceted character. Mission shows Robertson’s growth particularly in his crisp sentences, in the ways he helps the reader get to know characters through their actions instead of through long descriptions. In both books, Robertson uses Tom’s choice of music to follow what’s going on inside his head. Robertson provides a playlist of the music which gave this reader more insight into Tom than chapters of words could have done. Robertson spent ten years reviewing mysteries for Publishers Weekly and his knowledge of what works in the genre shows.
A business trip takes Tom to Scotland where he learns more of his past and begins the soul searching that makes him care even more about the homeless who seem to have too few to care about them. Robertson absolutely nails Faith Community’s Sunday night site with its meals, mattresses, and routines. Robertson and his family belong to the same church I attend in Chicago’s southern suburbs and his descriptions perfectly evoke winter Sunday evenings there where volunteers and homeless guests spend the night together.
Summing it Up: Read this for a traditional mystery with a unique setting and a compelling protagonist. Read it for its humanity and for an up close and personal look at the volunteers and guests in church homeless shelters. I can’t wait for the next installment as the last pages of Mission have me anxious to learn more about Tom and perhaps about a certain homeless man. This is no Chinese Carryout, read it and forget it, mystery. Tom’s interactions will stick with you just as Dora’s lovingly prepared meatloaf does for those lucky enough to arrive in time to get it.
Rating: 5 stars
Category: Fiction, Five Stars, Mysteries and Thrillers, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Super Nutrition
Publication date: May 26, 2013
Q & A with the Author: http://www.gibsonhousepublishers.com/books/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/QAMissionRobertson.pdf
Music Selections in Mission: http://www.gibsonhousepublishers.com/?p=243
What Others are Saying:
On Permafrost: The welcome beginning of a superbly smart and addictive series." - Doug Stanton, best-selling author of In Harm's Way and Horse Soldiers