In Beyond Blue, Austin Camacho, author of nine previous mysteries, brings a new twist to the police procedural crime genre. Instead of one protagonist, there are six, all of whom work for an organization dedicated to help the NYC police department take care of problems they don’t seem to be able to handle on their own.
Funded by the Arab father of a 9/11 victim, Beyond Blue Investigations takes on cases such as an officer who has been undercover for too long and one who is falling apart because his wife is threatening to divorce him. They are also investigating a smuggling operation at JFK and a lawyer who has made a career of out getting crooks off by damaging their accusers. The agency’s leader, Paul Gorman, assigns individuals with police backgrounds to investigate these cases.
Camacho expertly interweaves the individual cases bringing all four to a climatic finish. His dialogue is crisp, descriptions are anything but clichéd, and he throws readers into the middle of fight scenes with confidence they’ll know whose fist is hitting whose jaw. Another plus of Beyond Blue is that I didn’t detect a single typo. That’s rare no matter who the publisher is. In this case it’s his own publishing company run with his wife. They also put on Creatures, Crimes and Creativity, an annual mystery and thriller writing conference held near Baltimore. I attended the 2015 version and recommend it for writers and readers both.
The concept of an organization to help the police is original and each of the four stories Camacho creates are original and intriguing, but having multiple protagonists diminishes the reader’s ability to identify with any of them. One gets the idea that the agency’s director is the main character, but we learn little of his background and most of the time all he does is orchestrate the others, a task which drives him to doodling on a yellow pad waiting to hear from his team.
Inevitably with four sub-plots, some work better than the others. I found the ones involving the two female detectives especially well wrought, as both characters are smart, brash, and fearless.
I confess I had trouble at first getting into Beyond Blue, which I was reading on my iPad using the Kindle app. It turns out the conversion process from the original eliminated scene breaks, which led to my having to take notes so I could follow who was who. Then I discovered this same problem infected the Kindle app version of my latest novel as well. I’m not sure whether that issue occurred on Kindles or just the Kindle app. The Camachos inform me they’re reissuing their books, which will solve that particular problem.
Camacho has recently issued his eleventh novel, Pyramid Deception––the sixth of a series featuring uber detective and troubleshooter Hannibal Jones. I look forward to delving into it in the near future.