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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon February 10, 2007
The Chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole Levi Vogue is coming home from a rendezvous with a prostitute that he has been seeing for a year and in a happy mood. That feeling is shattered when someone outside his home fires a shotgun killing him while taking off half his face. At first it looks like the prostitute's violent boyfriend who just got released from prison is the best suspect but he has an airtight alibi.

Sam Kincaid, Chief of the Special Investigations Branch of the Utah Departments of Corrections, teams up with homicide detective Lieutenant Kate McConnell to work the case. They find an ex-con Charles Watts who has a grudge against the victim, in his car an apparent suicide with a note that looks to be in his handwriting. An autopsy proves that Watts was murdered and his death made to look like a suicide. Although they found the man who killed Vogue they don't know who was pulling his strings and when they try to find the forger they discover he is a murder victim as well. It looks like a group of conspirators are tying up all loose ends. They believe the conspirators are part of the system but finding out who they are puts Sam and his family in danger.

This is not a prison drama but a crime thriller about people who use the system and the criminal element for their own gain. Sam and Kate are fascinating characters who have to deal with state politics and criminals in order to find out who are the puppet masters. The author takes the reader through a step by step investigation that feels realistic yet is very fascinating to the layman.

Harriet Klausner
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 6, 2007
Sam Kincaid, Chief of the Special Investigations Branch of the Utah Department of Corrections (DofC), is called in to work with the police on the homicide of Levi Vogue, Chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. For the DofC, the fear is Vogue having been killed by a resentful parole. This appears to be the case when the trail leads to ex-con "Slick" Watts. Watts turns up as an apparent suicide until forensics pronounce it murder. For some, the trail could mean professional disaster; for Sam, personal tragedy.

It took me into a part of the justice system I don't believe I'd ever read before. Sam is well-developed as a character, with a personal life as a single dad. The child is there and believable, but doesn't get in the way of the story. I appreciated the Utah setting, with Sam working in Salt Lake City but living the Park City, but would like to see the author do more with the setting the future books. The dialogue was a bit stiff, for my taste, but not terrible. All-in-all, I enjoyed this debut by Norman and would certainly read his next book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
THE COMMISSION

By Michael Norman

Poisoned Pen Press, 2007,

246 pages, $24.95

ISBN: 1590583586

Review by Carl Brookins

The novel opens with a horrific event. The Chair of the Utah Board of Pardons is shotgunned to death in the driveway of his upscale home. Enter Sam Kincaid, head of the Special Investigations unit of the Pardons Board. Enter also a slick accomplished homicide detective named Kate McConnell.

The novel is a well-put together police procedural with the usual in-fighting and tensions between cops, different agencies, and the politicians who run them. In a lot of these agencies, readers can assume that the leaders will interfere with the investigation in attempts to avoid scandal, dump malfeasance on others, and gain points for the selves. That happens in this novel which is not in least out of the ordinary.

It does turn out that the roots of the plot turn on some sexual kinkyness, a number of bad guys in unusual places, and behind the scenes machinations by wealthy members of the local society. The story is told by an author who clearly read a book on how not to write a police procedural, how to be careful about changes in point of view, and certain techniques to keep the plot moving. It's all carefully and a little too obviously handled, and occasionally the author lapses into professorial pedantism.

Having said all that, the principal characters, Kincaid and McConnell are interesting enough to entice a reader to follow them into harms way. The story has a strong ring of plausibility and the author's knowledge of police agencies and parole boards comes through. The novel is a solid, capable, first effort.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I have rated this three stars, but probably would give it 3 1/2 if possible.
This police procedural opens with the shotgun murder of Levi Vogue, Chairman of the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. And it turns out that Vogue likes to live on the edge sexually and is not the squeaky clean Mormon that people in the community think he is.

Because of Vogue's job, Sam Kincaid of the Utah Department of Corrections investigative arm, is called in to work with Kate McConnell, a homicide detective with the Salt Lake police department. Their investigation begins with the sexual kinkiness and then widens out step-by-step to the rottenness inside the Utah prison system. Tension is added because the victim's family is connected enough to put political pressure on the investigators' higher ups. The office politics involved seemed realistic enough.

A primary weakness is in the characterization of the peripheral characters to the well-done Kincaid, especially the stereotyping of his daughter and his aunt. McConnell, who he becomes romantically involved with, could have been done a little better and probably will be in further novels starring the two of them. Dialogue could be tighter in places also.

But these points are minor compared to the denouement. The killer tries to take revenge on Kincaid -- a little trite -- as he narrows in by taking his family hostage. During the scene where Kincaid finally gets free, the killer reveals all and nicely summarizes everything up. Needs to be much better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This mystery will keep you guessing until the end!

I really enjoyed this book - a lot of mystery, little bit of sexual innuendo, and some family added in for a great mixture.

Am sure the investigators had to buy new shoes afterwards as their soles were worn down to nothing! Lots of action.

Great detective work! Revenge the motive? Money? Combination of both?

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2013
A big thanks to Michael Norman for this powerfully written story. The plot was direct, with no useless dialogue or wasted words describing fights, chase scenes,or landscapes. The characters are completely believable and well defined. In short, this is a tight, interesting book that I had a hard time putting down. I will be looking for more of Norman's writing.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2012
This book was well written and well put together. The story progressed logically and, as police procedurals go, was quite entertaining as well. I kind of knew what to expect from the story description prior to my purchase to my kindle. I thought the fact that the protagonist being an officer of the prison system was a nice change from the usual; I.E., police investigator/detective, P.I., etc. It gave a different twist to the story because Sam had to be a lot more careful in proceeding for fear of getting in hot water with a myriad of different agencies and political honchos, rather than having just one boss to answer to. Also the locale was interesting; the Salt Lake City area and it's environs. Most readers would not expect that area to be a hotbed of prostitution and drug crimes but it just goes to show that any place has it's share of sordid individuals. All in all, awell written story and a good read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2012
We are in Utah, vividly described and easily imagined. Sam Kincaid, a prison system bureaucrat and investigator, is assigned a case in which he links up with a good looking female policewoman. The story is compelling from page one onward with great dialogue and a sense of suspense to the very end. Sam is a single Dad whose daughter gets most of her training from an Aunt who lives in. To read of a hard bitten detective arranging play dates for his little girl is but one of the strange asides in this book. I truly enjoyed this book, but think Sams' staff a tad large for his job. I guess bureaucrats are under every rock!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2013
A setting I was not familiar with: the prison background. Lots of action very plausible and detailed. Sam Kincaid has a moral persona we would so much like to represent those who protect us from the criminal population, as Mr. Mom with the custody of his 8 years old daughter, he is even more likable. There is no unnecessary description of violence scenes or twisted psychotic personalities to possibly make you cringe at reading the story, no vulgarity either. Just a good fast-paced thriller worth entertaining mystery and thriller lovers.
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on October 31, 2008
When the son of a local and very powerful businessman is gunned down in the driveway of his home in an exclusive neighborhood Lt Kate McConnell is tapped to lead the investigation. Kincaid is called in because the victim--Levi Vogue--was the Chairman of the Board of Pardons and Parole. It doesn't take long for the pair to discover Vogue led a less than ideal Mormon lifestyle; he was a philanderer who enjoyed strip clubs and hookers. The two detectives quickly find themselves walking a tight line between an escalating criminal investigation and a deepening political quagmire that threatens not only their careers, but potentially their lives as well.

THE COMMISSION is an enjoyable straight-forward procedural. It is written in first person with an occasional, and not too annoying, switch to third person. The setting is well drawn--while Mr Norman doesn't quite capture the nuances of local life, he does make a good attempt that is more than just throwing out names and places. There are a few scenes in the small Casino border town of Wendover that are particularly well drawn. The cast is broad and the victim and his family are easily compared to a local clan that claims the current Governor as one of its own.

The plot is straight forward and unmarred by any jolting twists. I did guess the conclusion no more than one-third of the way into the novel, but it really didn't bother me. The narrative is clear and readable and there is enough tension and suspense to keep things interesting.

THE COMMISSION is the best mystery novel I have read set in Salt Lake City. It is quick, believable, and very entertaining. It is certainly good enough that I plan to search out the second in the series.

-Gravetapping
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