“One on One” by Michael Brandman is the second installment in the new series. The former original writer of the Jesse Stone series after Robert Parker’s death decided last year to write a series about a small-town police deputy. Besides a good mystery, the author intertwines some social issues as well as an ongoing discussion about assisted suicide.
Legendary Sheriff Burton Steel requested his son Buddy leave his job with LAPD Homicide and come home to become the deputy of Freedom, California, a privileged coastal community a hundred miles north of Los Angeles. Reluctantly, he honored the summons because of a sense of duty, and a willingness to make amends with his dying father. Burton Steel has Lou Gehrig’s disease and has pressured his son to pull the plug when necessary in an assisted suicide.
“I knew someone who pulled the plug on himself,” Brandman said. “The guy was a physician and worked out a morphine overdose. His future was so dim he did not want to experience the pain. I wanted to explore in this series the issues of the father/son dynamic as well as what happens when someone faces mortality. Burton is not afraid to tell Buddy he will one day ask him to pull the plug. Although Buddy is horrified, it is a topic I wanted to delve into — the taking of a life versus ending a loved one’s suffering.”
Thankfully for Buddy, he becomes distracted while investigating a fatality. A popular assistant principal, Hank Carson, who is also the assistant swimming coach, is brutally murdered with a steak knife. Further scrutiny reveals that there was another side to Carson. There are people who resent him and are suspicious rumors that he and some football players could be involved in the abuse of those on the swim team.
Readers will obviously be reminded of the Penn State football scandal along with Michigan State’s gymnastic scandal, both involving sexual abuse.
“I wanted to write how a murder could have happened out of these stories of abuse,” Brandman said. “This violation of a sacred trust had people looking the other way. I like to explore some societal issues. In my first book, ‘Missing Persons,’ I explored how some preachers are con men that emerged as self-righteous. In this novel, I wanted to show how abuse can impact a victim and what is their recourse. In my next book, Buddy takes on the developers and Coastal Commission after a murder takes place.”
The sub-plot of the book has Buddy angry over a sudden outbreak of graffiti. He is forced to find new and challenging ways to thwart those responsible for defacing buildings with their so-called “street art.” The author wants “to call attention to this blight and have Buddy find a way to end it. I am tired of driving around Los Angeles seeing this horrifying graffiti. I put in a quote in the book to show these ‘artists’ will do it anywhere and do not care if it is public or private property.”
Buddy is a likable character who uses self-deprecating humor, sometimes acting like an overgrown schoolboy. He is easygoing and can handle people poking fun at him. Being smart, caring and understanding of people’s emotional pain, Buddy has a moral sense of right versus wrong.
Readers will enjoy this fast-paced mystery. With well-developed characters and a plot that takes issues straight from the headlines, this is a good read.