Gritty, raw and suspenseful from the first page—this describes The Drop Zone, a new crime novel from Halifax author Bob Kroll. Dark, sleazy and violent also depict the events of this fast-paced novel. If you like yourself a true detective story, a good crime scene and the whodunit that unfolds, you are in for a ride.
Detective T.J. Peterson’s not doing so well. He receives daily perturbing video calls from his estranged daughter and his drinking problem is heading off the rails. He finds himself swept into a world of underage prostitution, human trafficking and murder. There’s also the body of the Catholic priest found bludgeoned in a church by a symbol of his faith —in the vein of The Da Vinci Code— but that’s not where the story goes. Peterson and his partner Danny investigate with corruption unfolding at every step as they try to track down the killer. The story is set in a port city on the east coast of Canada. While reminiscent of a larger Halifax, the city is never identified.
The early leads are almost a tease. It’s obvious they are on the wrong track, but Kroll delivers—making it a deeper, darker and more sinister case. There’s a lot going on. Not all the storylines go anywhere—similar to a real police investigation. There’s also a lot of police jargon and we are introduced to a large cast of characters. It almost takes some detective work of your own to keep track but it’s easy enough to simply let the story carry you along.
As dark and gritty as the story gets, Kroll’s writing is beautifully expressive. For example, when portraying Peterson’s state of mind: “His feelings ran a four-minute mile at memories that hung in his mind like his wife’s dresses on her side of the closet.” And his state of being: “Peterson was slumped on a love seat […]. He looked like a man hanging on by his fingertips as the world spun to shake him off.” With writing as equally descriptive: “Then he remembered it wasn’t just one person that had pounded him, put his face into the sidewalk, and kicked in his ribs. There had been two of them: one sounding as croaky as a frog, the other with a hitch in his voice like a skip in a vinyl record.”
Detective T.J. Peterson is no hero. He’s done bad things. His job broke him down. He’s affected by what he sees, what he does and what happens to him. For example: “Peterson held the bag out between them, reaching deep inside for the nerve to keep his arm steady and not show the fear that was churning in his guts.” Or when “He felt it. He tasted it. The adrenalin that suddenly drains from the muscles and nerves and leaves the body a wreck and the stomach coated with fear.”
This is what makes Peterson real. We only see snapshots of his past and what’s gone wrong, but enough to hint there is more to be explored. While readers are rewarded with closure on this investigation, we are left with a hunch that there is much more to be shared in the T.J Peterson Mystery series.