Alexandria, VA – Review: Slaters Lane
Publisher: BrickHouse Books, Baltimore, MD.
Author: John Adam Wasowicz
Reviewed by Ralph Peluso, Literary Editor
Zebra Rating – 5 Stripes
Crime solver Elmo (Mo) Katz returns in the mystery novel Slaters Lane. The author uses plenty of clever wrinkles and twists, including setting the story at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mo Katz and team find out that an old dog can learn new tricks when forced to do so. Jane Hutton, a statuesque lawyer in charge of the civil division of the U.S. attorney’s office, is brutally stabbed and left for dead in her Slaters Lane home. Alexandria City detective Sherry Stone notifies Katz of the assault. Hutton works for Katz, and with one of his own attacked, he immediately springs into action.
But processes have changed since the implementation of virus protocols. Everyday life, including criminal investigations, is significantly impacted. Stone, short of resources, accepts Katz’s offer to help. Team Katz quickly adjusts to investigation in the time of COVID, using technology and analytics to supplant human interaction.
Crime scene investigations are different. There are plenty of virus precautions: masks, gloves, and social distancing for example. The Katz team makes judicious use of video conferencing as a replacement for in-person team meetings and lengthy brainstorming sessions. With technology comes other challenges, like hacking, fraud, and data theft.
After Hutton, dies the team races against the clock and hidden conspirators attempting to shut their efforts down. One negative that arises from the lack of in-person meetings is distrust. The motives of leadership are at times questioned.
Wasowicz does a nice job with the development of the characters featured in his trilogy. Readers get a deeper insight into Mo and the relationship between him and his parents, and others he has helped during his career.
The plot is fast moving and filled with plenty of intrigue. Hutton had enemies but who was brazen enough to commit murder in broad daylight, even with many in the city sheltering in place? The author peppers readers with crumbs of evidence, hints, and plenty of suspects, including Hutton’s eerie look-alike, her mother, socialite Tricia Barton.
Wasowicz thickens the plot by touching on deep corruption, greed, abuse of authority, and influence peddling within the sphere of government contracting. This ignites reader curiosity through to the conclusion. In the end, even Mo worries about the ultimate outcome. Is there enough evidence to convince the inevitable outlier juror of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?
John reinforces that his inspiration comes from the great detective novelists like Ian Fleming, Sue Grafton, and Raymond Chandler. John continues to draw from his 15 years of prosecutorial and criminal defense experiences. His plot twists and turns are based on real-life situations. Readers, I think, are thirsty for more Elmo.
John and his wife still reside in Wessynton, near Mount Vernon. They have raised three sons and are enjoying life to the fullest. Slaters Lane readers will turn the pages quickly following the evidence and enjoying the surprises. A solid read during the last days of COVID-19, we hope. Rating: 5 Zebra stripes.
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Dec.15: John Wazowicz, Slaters Lane
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