Maggie Novak: Put this female cop on your reading list: A Place called Fear by Keith Houghton

Elevator pitch: 

An explosive locked-room/car mystery for a tenacious female detective



A Place called Fear is the second Maggie Novak I read in two months, and it may be even better than Don't Even Breathe. Both books get off to a great start, with a killer premise. An unsolvable riddle that keeps you turning the page. In A Place called Fear, it is almost a Sherlock Holmes-like; a cop dies in a confined space, his car, and manages to kill and wound other people in the process. The explanation seems cut and dry; still, there has to be a story, even if you can look to figure it out, till the impossible start making sense. Like the previous Maggie Novak thriller, A Place called Fear ends with a terrific highstakes action sequence. The rest of the story is almost Connelly-like in a good way. Keith Houghton describes the investigation in the same fluid, relentless, and convincing style.
 Florida homicide detective Maggie Novak doesn't sleep much. Her personal life is reduced to snippets at the beginning and end of the book, so not many interruptions in the flow of the story—Maggie is just a hell of an investigating machine. That always hooks me. There are a few chapters from the POV of the one responsible for the explosive consequence of the cop's suicide; (I'm trying not to give away too much.) Fortunately, even if these are superfluous and I hope thriller writers would stop interspersing already great stories with them, luckily in this case, these are few and brief. All the attention is on Maggie chasing the case just like I like my procedural— and she is dogged and smart as they come. The kind of detective that has a long life ahead of her in fiction, if she manages to survive all the genuinely dreadful people she encounters. One side note, once, the conclusion has a 'gay character is screwed up' theme. What is going on with all these books referring to this antiquated notion? Back in Patricia Highsmith's times, it was understandable, but in 2020? But that is the only nitpick I have.

The gist: 

When het colleague Detective Clayton Young goes missing on New Year's Eve, homicide detective Maggie Novak tracks him down to the nearby Wallmart, where he was last seen. After checking the monitors inside, she finds his car in the parkinglot and watches a muzzle flash go off on screen. Disturbed, she runs to the car, and when she arrives there, mayhem ensues. Together with her partner Loomis, Maggie tries to piece together her colleague's last days, trying to understand what could drive Clayton to this senseless act a few moments before the clock turned twelve.