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The Edge of Justice Mass Market Paperback – April 1, 2003
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Penzler Pick, April 2002: In his accomplished first novel, Clinton McKinzie introduces an interesting, complicated protagonist in Antonio Burns, a special agent whose family was originally from Argentina. His grandfather owned a ranch (which is still in the family), and his father taught Burns how to climb. And, oh yes, Burns has a brother serving a long jail sentence in the United States.
Burns has earned the nickname Quickdraw for shooting down three drug dealers before they could shoot him, and the investigation of that incident still hangs over his head. As the book opens he is in Laramie, Wyoming, attending the trial and sentencing of the Knapp brothers, who are accused of raping, torturing, and killing a young girl. The verdict would seem to be a foregone conclusion, as is the death penalty. Two years after the killers of Matthew Shepherd were spared the ultimate penalty, Laramie is anxious to show it can be tough on crime.
When Burns is not at the courthouse, he is relaxing with his dog Oso at Vedauwoo, a difficult climbing region much loved by the local community. When a young woman falls to her death while climbing with a group, her death is ruled an accident because the young climbers were up on the rocks drinking and fooling around. But when Burns inspects the site of the accident and looks at the girl's injuries, he begins to suspect foul play.
As he gets to know the core group of climbers led by the charismatic Billy Heller, who takes an immediate dislike to Burns, he is even more suspicious because of the hold Heller has over the young female climbers. Burns also begins to get involved with one of the attractive climbers, something he immediately regrets when he meets Rachel, a reporter from The Denver Post.
Burns has a complicated personal life, but he is a good cop and it soon becomes clear to him that the climbing death of the young girl, which is soon followed by other deaths, is connected to something going on in the climbing community and this, in turn, casts doubt on the conviction and sentencing of the Knapp brothers.
McKinzie weaves a fascinating and very readable story here. With climbing scenes that are authentically exciting and very plausible characters, this is an impressive first novel. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
McKinzie, a keen climber, portrays the hero of his debut thriller, Wyoming special agent Antonio Burns, as happiest when he is in the wild, hanging by his fingernails from a sheer rock wall. The problem is, he has to deal with life on level ground: he's in trouble for shooting three drug dealers in self-defense, his wild but cherished brother is in jail and the redneck local law officers he has to deal with are trying to railroad a pair of innocent lowlifes to the chair. In addition, he's looking into the fatal fall off a cliff of a young woman who had been partying with the son of an ambitious DA. McKinzie knows his wild Wyoming, and also how to keep things moving briskly. Burns, who is soon on the track of a rogue climber who likes to surround himself with pretty girls and potheads, takes his share of knocks along the way, and there is a nail-biting if not entirely convincing climax on a mountain in a storm. But as often happens with first novels, it's overplotted: there's simply too much going on at once, and poor Burns gets badly beaten at least once too often to convince a reader that he could even stand up, let alone get up a tough rock face in the dark solo; his jailed brother plays an unexpected and not too believable role at a pivotal moment; and the on-again, off-again romance with a glamorous reporter seems more dutiful than organic. Still, this gets good marks for ringing a change or two on the chase thriller, and we're now promised a prequel, starring the same gutsy hero.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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I rarely describe plots because others beat me to it. Since this one is lightly reviewed suffice it to say that Antonio (Anton) Burns is a Special Agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation. Like any good protagonist he has little but contempt for authority (save his immediate superior- a stand-up guy)and is constantly in conflict with many of them. He's asked to investigate what is assumed to be an accidental death in a rock climbing incident but soon learns that something doesn't compute. And thus begins an adventure that I would think any literate reader will enjoy. Since the story is set in Montana and Colorado and Burns is a rock climber people who like the outdoors will be especially happy, and if you are a rock climber (not a requisite) so much the better. There are some very good rock climbing parts that totally ring true. This is a very fine book and already ranks way up on my list of must-reads. I'm kind of jaded and rarely drop everything to finish a book but I did with this one. In fact, I rarely read two books in a row featuring the same protagonist but I'm making an exception here. Do yourself a favor and put this order at the top of your to-do list.
Most of the local police are hostile toward Anton and his investigation, and any of the climbers Anton talks to seem to wind up dead. That their deaths all bear similarities to the death Karge is pinning on the brothers convinces him that Heller, not the brothers, are guilty of that crime. But, since implicating the chief prosecutor's son in that crime will destroy his career, Karge pulls every string he can to hamper the investigation. In addition, Anton's wild brother Roberto has just escaped from prison, and the authorities believe Anton helped him out. Anton only has a few allies, his boss, a big black deputy, a lovely reporter, and his big dog Oso. Everyone else seems to want him suspended or dead.
This book bore a lot of similarities to "Point of Law," its prequel which was published second, but changes a few details from the back story. I was a little disappointed we didn't get to see more of Roberto, Anton's wild brother, who in this book is not just a felon, he's doing time for manslaughter. However, his character rang true, as did the personalities of both Anton and Oso. It was no secret who the bad guys were, but there was a bit of suspense as to what actually happened the night the girl fell off the cliff, and I turned the pages quickly to find out what was going to happen next. This is an entertaining series of thrillers, and I look forward to more.