Review: River of Secrets by Roger Johns

Title: River of Secrets by Roger Johns
Wallace Hartman Mysteries Series Book Two
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


When a controversial politician is murdered in cold blood, Baton Rouge Police Detective Wallace Hartman struggles to find the killer amid conspiracies and corruption in River of Secrets, a gripping new mystery from Roger Johns.

Herbert Marioneaux, a Louisiana politician infamous for changing his mind on hot-button issues, has been murdered and his body posed to send a message. Baton Rouge homicide detective Wallace Hartman has to figure out who’s sending that message. DNA points to Eddie Pitkin, a social justice activist who also happens to be the half-brother of Wallace’s childhood best friend. But even with the combative history between Pitkin and Marioneaux, murder seems out of character for Pitkin, whose usual MO is to confront the wealthy and powerful with their inconvenient past. As Wallace digs deeper, she unearths a possible alibi witness, along with evidence of a deeply troubled relationship that points the finger of suspicion at Marioneaux’s son.

While Eddie’s supporters are convinced of his innocence, his enemies are equally certain of his guilt. Under pressure from all directions, Wallace pursues her investigation into the dark heart of the political establishment as Baton Rouge falls under the shadow of escalating violence. When it appears a police department insider may be sabotaging her efforts by leaking information about the case, and after menacing messages are left for her and her loved ones, Wallace is forced to untangle a trail of old and disturbing secrets unaided by those she most needs to trust.


River of Secrets by Roger Johns is a compelling police procedural that features a topical storyline. This second installment in the Wallace Hartman Mysteries series can be read as a standalone but I highly recommend the entire series.

Detective Wallace Hartman’s newest case is a perplexing investigation into the murder of state senator Herbert Marioneaux.  With Herbert’s long and varied history of reinventing himself,  Hartman realizes the list of suspects and uncovering a motive will be daunting.  A DNA match quickly points to disgraced lawyer turned activist Eddie Pitkin as the suspected killer, but Wallace’s childhood friend (and Pitkin’s half-brother) Craig Stephens pleads with her to check out a plausible alibi. With racial tensions on the rise, her boss Chief of Detectives Jason Burley and Police Chief Jack Shannon want the investigation closed sooner rather than later, but Wallace refuses to be intimidated as she continues searching for the truth.

As she digs into Marioneaux’s past, Wallace uncovers conflicting information about the pastor turned politician. A one-time segregationist, Herbert has renounced his racist past but the minister at his church raises doubts about the sincerity of the state senator’s transformation. Wallace’s discussion with Marioneaux’s estranged son Glenn also suggests the state senator might have a dark side.

Eddie Pitkin is no choirboy due to his own brush with the law, and his efforts to force slave owners’ descendants to pay reparations is not exactly welcome by everyone. Wallace stumbles across a witness that could provide Eddie will an alibi, but will he show up at the police station to give his statement?

Hartman soon becomes aware someone in the department is leaking information so she bounces ideas off longtime family friend and her mother’s current suitor, lawyer Mason McCone.  Unsure of which co-workers she can trust, Wallace instead relies on small town Sheriff Melissa Voorhees to process evidence and track down information. After she is targeted by white supremacists Wallace and her boyfriend Mason Cunningham attemp to maintain a low profile while she quietly continues her investigation under the radar.

With a fantastic lead protagonist and a socially relevant plot, River of Secrets is a fast-paced and engrossing mystery. Wallace is an ace detective whose finally honed instincts are crucial to unraveling the truth about who murdered Marioneaux and why. Roger Johns does an outstanding job obscuring the perpetrator’s identity and motive for the murder cleverly under wraps until the novel’s twist-filled conclusion. A riveting addition to the Wallace Hartman Mysteries
series that old and new fans do not want to miss.

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