One On One – Michael Brandman

One On One – Michael Brandman (4 stars)

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I was fortunate to receive this novel from as an Advance Reader Copy, in exchange for an objective review.

Buddy Steel is a former LAPD Homicide Detective who has reluctantly returned home to San Romo County, to act as the Chief Deputy for his father, Sheriff Burton Steel. The Sheriff was recently diagnosed with an incurable and ultimately terminal illness and hopes that Buddy will take his place when the time is right. Both also hope to work through the difficulties of their contentious relationship while they can.

As the novel starts, Buddy is summoned to a murder scene at Freedom High School, where the Assistant Principal, Henry Carson, has been found murdered in his office – an apparent victim of a stabbing. As the investigation begins, Henry appears to be well loved by students and staff alike. Involved in student sports as well, no one has an unkind word to say about Carson. Meanwhile, his widow, Kimber has fled the state, giving Buddy a potential person of interest to assess.

Seemingly out of nowhere, Buddy inherits a second problem – a mystery graffiti artist has taken to Freedom to create some free-lance artwork –creating monstrous walls of spray painted ‘art’ on various buildings and the like, angering the town’s residents.

As the search continues for Carson’s killer, Buddy begins to find inconsistencies when he interviews students. It becomes apparent that Carson preferred the ‘pretty’ ones – both guys and girls – that he would spend extra time with, whether it be dinner, or weekend getaways. One student alludes to a ‘play party’, which sends the case in a completely different direction…
Meanwhile, some ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, and some night time surveillance help to locate the Freedom artist, but can they apprehend him?

This is my first read by author Michael Brandman, but it will not be my last. My initial thoughts were that the book was a bit slow and mellow for a police procedural type novel – the murder scenes and forensics were described subtly, while the true focus was on the dynamics of relationships between the individuals of the story, Buddy and his father, students between their mentor, etc., but it quickly evolved into a very good read! I look forward to more of Buddy Steel, and his father as this series continues!