Is there room for yet-another thriller series centered around a cynical, witty homicide detective who skirts the law and has a mysterious past? If the detective is Marko Zorn in Otho Eskin’s The Reflecting Pool (Oceanview), the answer is that you might want to make space on your bookshelf.
In Marko Zorn’s fictional debut, Eskin has crafted a skillful plot that unfolds in a dynamic setting — Washington, D.C. This opens limitless possibilities beyond the storylines of typical urban crime thrillers, and Eskin takes full advantage of the opportunity to use the nation’s capital as his stage.
As you’d expect with a seasoned, big-city cop, Zorn knows how to operate in the District’s grittiest neighborhoods, but he also has the sophistication and skills to plausibly navigate tough cases in the choppy political waters that always churn in Washington. And, as real life reminds us every day lately, the political world unleashes high stakes, ambitions and threats far beyond anything an urban bad guy might conceive.
The title refers to a strong opening sequence in which Zorn investigates a body found in the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. It starts like this:
“She looks at me through three feet of water. Rose? I ask. As a homicide detective I see the faces of the dead all the time. This one is different. I remember those blue eyes. But that can’t be possible.”
Zorn can’t escape the pleading in those haunting eyes that remind him of his murdered sister. He identifies the victim as a Secret Service agent. He quickly realizes that Sandra Wilcox’s death was no accidental drowning and the word “secret” in her title aptly describes the mysteries surrounding her death. Zorn encounters remarkable disinterest among officials to help him uncover the truth. Disinterest quickly morphs into active discouragement under the guise of national security. Then he learns the dead agent could be tied to a plot by domestic terrorists to assassinate the president.
Parallel to this, Zorn finds himself in the middle of a battle between gangs over a huge shipment of illegal arms. It’s a part of his work that goes well beyond the boundaries of his day job as a D.C. detective. As he responds to the demands of a crime leader, his sloppiness as a supervisor puts the life of his young detective partner at risk. For all his cleverness, Zorn might not be able to escape the consequences of his extra-legal efforts.
Zorn’s backstory comes with many unanswered questions that one assumes future stories will resolve. The promotional blurbs suggest that Zorn is a quasi-James Bond character; a cultured detective “with expensive tastes in art, classic cars and women.” Indeed, Zorn has a Bond-like sexual liaison with a key White House staffer that’s very important to the story — a tryst that on its surface seems implausible but will likely make more sense once we get to know Zorn better in future sequels.
The best part comes at the end in which Eskin skillfully weaves multiple threads of the plot into a startling climax that joins the two parallel stories. That’s not easy to do without seeming contrived, and Eskin achieves it.
The author has an impressive background that gives him credentials for the D.C. setting. He’s a playwright, lawyer and former diplomat with experiences throughout the world in the Army and U.S. Foreign Service, representing the U.S. in international negotiations on subjects as varied as seabed mining and peaceful uses of outer space.
Based on that resume, even the sky isn’t the limit for Marko Zorn’s future adventures. He’s off to a fine start.
Learn more about Eskin on his Booktrib author profile page.