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Review: And Grant You Peace, by Kate Flora

With her very first sentence, mystery and true crime writer Kate Flora snatches the reader off the sidelines and places them squarely on the playing field in this, the fourth entry in her Joe Burgess police procedural series, “And Grant You Peace.”

Detective Sergeant Joe Burgess lives and works in the real-life city of Portland, Maine, a predominantly white city struggling to understand the new Somalian and Sudanese refugee populations inhabiting it. The Portland Police Department is tasked with maintaining some level of peace amid a cultural situation fraught with tension, a task made more complex by the addition of a sound-bite and statistics addicted Captain: “Anything that didn’t fit on a chart or graph or couldn’t be quantified was anathema to him.”

Burgess is in the habit of putting the tough details of days spent focused on major crimes away in an act of “mental housekeeping” before returning home to his family. On this night, his reverie is interrupted by local foster kid Jason and his cry of “Fire at the mosque and…there’s someone in there screaming.” Before the night is over, Burgess finds himself a hero for saving the life of a young mother and tasked with investigating the death of a tragically ill child.

After thirty years on the force, Burgess is starting to lose interest in the “adrenaline of the chase,” but not the desire to put the bad guys away. Who locked this woman and child in the mosque, and why? His case is compromised by the disappearance of his translator and the assault on a young police officer during an attempted kidnapping. While carefully navigating the stormy waters of local race relations, Burgess and his team, the young and impulsive Stan Perry and the seasoned Terry Kyle, face suspicion from the affected refugee community. Throw in an outlaw gang, corpses lost and found, illegal arms, and the stalking of a police officer’s family, and you have a maelstrom of violence, desperation, and potential motive. Who is the unidentified girl at the center of their case? Afflicted with traumatic muteness and carrying no ID, her identity is a mystery. As Burgess struggles to balance his work and family obligations, he must rely on his instincts and his team to keep everyone safe.

In “And Grant You Peace,” Flora deftly crafts a fast-paced, gritty story well-rooted in the realities of police investigation in a small Maine city. Flora’s extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system learned as a former assistant attorney general for the state, is skillfully applied in the crafting of a complex and nuanced plot. Authentic dialogue and fully developed characters encourage the reader to become immersed in the story. In Joe Burgess, Flora has created a sympathetic, imperfect, and likeable protagonist, one whose lead readers are quite willing to follow.

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