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Slow Fire Hardcover – February 16, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Will MacGowan Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mercer shows promise, but succumbs to clichés and the implausible in his debut about a former LAPD narcotics detective trying to rebuild his life after being a heroin addict. Will Magowan's new job as police chief in the tiny rural California town of Haydenville is his chance to show that he's again ready for police work. Far from an idyllic town, Haydenville has a thriving meth industry that's made addicts of many residents. Nice place to live, if it wasn't for all the tweakers, thinks Will, who suspects convicted murderer turned famous author, Frank Carver, who often acts as the town's patron, is up to no good. Mercer explores with finesse Will's past, the loss of his son, and his desire to reconnect with his wife, Laurie, but he uses the mayor's threat to fire Will too often, and as the most casual viewer of police dramas knows, even a smalltown cop can't just shoot a criminal or have someone die on his watch and expect to be at work the next hour. Author tour. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

Will Magowan’s heroin addiction cost him his job as a narcotics detective with the LAPD, but he has a second chance when he’s offered the position of police chief in Haydenville, a tiny, bucolic town in the far northern reaches of California. Is it a blessing or curse? Haydenville is plagued by a growing methamphetamine problem, and local authorities and politicians seem unwilling to tackle the crisis head-on. (They just can’t believe the drug’s primary supplier is novelist Frank Carver, Haydenville’s most celebrated citizen.) Will and his neophyte sidekick, Thomas, are determined to bring Carver to justice, but the consequences prove dire. At the same time, Will must cope with a marriage ripped apart by the tragic death of his young son. Might the stress of his life and job prompt him to replay past sins? Vulnerable and deeply damaged Magowan makes for a compelling protagonist in this crisp, well-written debut, the first in a series. Mercer could make a good thing even better with a bit more suspense. --Allison Block

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031255835X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312558352
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,768,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
One of the mainstays of both western and detective fiction is the plot in which the big city detective (or loner on horseback) goes to a small town in the boonies, finds everything upside down and inside out, with the evil forces in charge and the law in tatters. Every Quinn Martin hero of the 60's and 70's has such an experience.

Parker's take on this was the creation of Jesse Stone, the alcoholic, ex-LAPD detective, his marriage broken, his life on the edge of the abyss, who turns bi-coastal and sets up shop in Paradise, MA. Now comes Ken Mercer, with his own twist on a story line that nearly always works like a bandit. Will Magowan has left LA and his job as a narcotics detective for a job as chief of Haydenville, a town in northern California in which every resident seems to be tweaking, scratching, itching and committing mayhem. Looming above them all is a one-shot wonder writer, with a nasty pair of twin boys and a past that includes serious time in stir.

Will figures him for the majordomo of meth, but with the whole town seemingly against him, including the smarmy mayor, the task of convicting him appears to be Sisyphean. Enter Will's wife Laurie, who offers soothing moments in a narrative of nearly unrelieved struggle and pain. Will's other support (a counterpart to Jesse Stone's Suitcase Simpson) is a young man named Thomas, who longs for a nickname and who desperately wants to be of help to his fragile chief. As the challenges increase, Will goes into the woods--that traditional locus of suffering and adventure--to stand up for justice and achieve a decent measure of personal redemption in the process.

This is a very strong narrative, with interesting characters, a fully-realized setting and a piledriver plot. It is an exceptional debut for the author, from whom we should all now expect a Will Magowan series. I certainly look forward to one. Highly recommended.
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By G. Galaich on February 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Just finished Slow Fire and found this first mystery by Ken Mercer completely engrossing. I don't know Mercer's background, but he seems to really know Northern California's meth culture well. My favorite mystery protagonists are Harry Bosch, Elvis Cole, Joe Pike, and Jack Reacher. Mercer's character Will Magowan has the new sensitivity of Pike and the intelligence of Reacher. I find it interesting as the father of young children to see both Mercer and Robert Crais depicting the vulnerability and potential emotional pain inherent in fatherhood. I hope Mercer brings this character back again and that we don't have too long a wait for the next book from this new and talented author.
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Format: Hardcover
"Just a few hard knocks. That's what he'd kept telling himself, these past couple of years, but now he had to consider a more disturbing possibility. That perhaps the circumstances were not to be blamed, but only himself." - Will Magowan

Former LAPD narcotics detective Will Magowan has pretty much hit rock bottom. Having been fired because of the heroin addiction he picked up while working undercover, he's estranged from his wife and living in a beat up Airstream trailer at the opening of author Ken Mercer's debut novel, Slow Fire.

Still unemployed and trying to get his life together two years after his firing, Magowan's prospects for another job in law enforcement are looking rather grim. Until, that is, he gets an offer from the Mayor of Haydenville, California to become their Chief of Police. Located far upstate and deep inland in National Forest territory, the once idyllic town is suffocating under a growing methamphetamine problem, one so bad that the Mayor is willing to overlook Magowan's current baggage in favor of his past expertise.

Magowan accepts the position, and in relatively short order identifies the person he believes to be the source of the meth; Frank Carver, a man who served time in the 1970's after being convicted of the voluntary manslaughter of his wife. Unfortunately, Carver also wrote a bestselling book shortly after his release from prison which, in conjunction with his generous patronage of the town's library, makes him `hands off' as far as the Mayor is concerned.

It's not giving anything away to mention that Magowan identifies Carver as his main suspect (it happens early on), as Slow Fire is arguably more of a character study than it is a mystery in the strictest sense.
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoy murder mysteries, but I tend to limit my reading of them to those that have female protagonists. If Slow Fire is any indication, I am missing out. Will is not what I think of when I think of a crime novel protagonist. He is multi-dimensional, sympathetic, sad, literary, and sardonic. I wouldn't necessarily want to go out and have a beer with him, but if I needed a detective, I'd want him: he is driven and committed. He also clearly relates to others' pain.

One of the things I find most enjoyable about this novel is the way Mr. Mercer combines some pretty intense action, including violence and some graphic details, with quirky references to classic literature. The pace, plot, and action sequences all make the novel hard to put down, but the glimpses into Will's past and interests, as well as the slow unfolding of his family relationships, set the novel far apart from the run-of-the-mill murder mysteries. As another reviewer noted, the details Mr. Mercer provides including an understanding of tbe meth culture, police work, and the geographical lay-out of Northern California all come together to make this an incredibly well-rounded read. The visual depth of the writing made it easy to imagine this as a movie.

This is an exceptional read--visually compelling and with a character who is real. I can't wait to read more from Mr. Mercer.
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