Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Book Review: "By Any Means" by Chris Culver

Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

"In a world full of sinners, the good guys couldn't all be saints."

Those words, spoken by Indianapolis Police Detective Sergeant Ash Rashid, couldn't sum him up any better. A Muslim and a recovering alcoholic, he's fiercely devoted to his family and strongly believes that those who commit crimes should be punished, even if his methods of uncovering evidence or ensuring criminals get what they deserve aren't always by the book.

After a run-in with his boss sees him transferred to the police department's community relations team, he finds himself advising city residents how to protect themselves and giving speeches to school groups instead of fighting crime. One late afternoon in the middle of Ramadan, on the way home from a day of speeches, he comes upon a car accident—an expensive car has apparently run into a telephone pole. The car seems out of place in the dangerous neighborhood. And it turns out this is no routine accident, as the driver and a passenger have apparently been murdered, and there's blood in the back seat of the car.

Of course, it gets worse. The suspected murderer has kidnapped a Good Samaritan, a nurse, who called 911 from the accident scene. Although reluctant to do so, Ash's supervisors put him in charge of the investigation, since he was the first officer on the scene. But everything gets more complicated—Ash has more than one enemy among his fellow officers, his supervisors don't trust him, the FBI gets involved and isn't interested in sharing information, and worst of all, one of the victims was the estranged daughter of druglord Konstantin Bukoholov, with whom Ash has a strange relationship, in that he'd like to throw Konstantin in jail, but the druglord often points him toward evidence he needs to convict people.

One of Konstantin's tips take Ash to a local bed and breakfast, which turns out to be an entirely different and more horrifying business than it appears. Ash is determined to uncover the truth, even if it means putting himself in danger, risking his own life, and taking ethical shortcuts to get the information he needs. And as he battles his superiors and the FBI, he also must beat Konstantin before he takes justice into his own hands.

The third book in Chris Culver's series featuring Ash Rashid, By Any Means is a quick, well-written read with a tremendously compelling main character. This is the second book I've read in the series (after the first book, The Abbey), and I'm still really enjoying Ash's character, despite his somewhat skewed sense of right and wrong. He's a refreshing addition to the detective/mystery genre, as he's flawed but not completely on the wrong side of the law, and conflicted by his job but not utterly angst-ridden.

While there isn't much that's surprising in the plot, that doesn't matter. By Any Means is compelling and enjoyable, with a good amount of both action and introspection. Ash Rashid is definitely a character worth getting to know.

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