Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Mar 2019

Member Reviews


Frank Marr was a good cop, until his burgeoning addictions to alcohol and cocaine forced him into retirement from the DC Metro police. Now, he's barely eking out a living as a private investigator for a defense attorney - also Frank's ex-girlfriend.

Ostracized by his family after a botched case that led to the death of his baby cousin, Jeffrey, Frank was on a collision course with rock bottom. Now clean and clinging hard to sobriety, Frank passes the time - and tests himself - by robbing the houses of local dealers, taking their cash and flushing their drugs down the toilet. When an old friend from his police days needs Frank's help to prove he didn't shoot an unarmed civilian, Frank is drawn back into the world of dirty cops and suspicious drug busts, running in the same circles that enabled his addiction those years ago.

Never one to play by the rules, Frank recruits a young man he nearly executed years before. Together - a good man trying not to go bad and a bad man trying to do good - detective and criminal charge headfirst into the DC drug wars. Neither may make it out.
My take......

Trigger is the third and possibly the last in the Frank Marr series, featuring the drug addicted ex-cop, turned PI. I'm kind of hoping it isn't because I've enjoyed all three in the series.

Marr here is trying to turn his life around. He's off the drugs, but still flirts with temptation by robbing drug dealers for cash, to supplement his income. The thing he had with Leslie - friend and sometime employer - is over, but at least she's talking to him now. His only friends, loose ones at that are those he made when working as a cop. He's pretty much on his own.

Our tale here concerns itself with Frank trying to help his ex-partner Al. Al has been suspended and is under investigation for the shooting of an unarmed black teenager, resulting in his death. Al swears the kid was armed, the evidence or lack of it seems to indicate otherwise.

Marr conducts his own investigation into the shooting, tracking down reluctant witnesses, interrogating Al and dealing with his confidential informant, who he was meeting with immediately before the teenager was killed. Along the way he forms an unlikely alliance with a character encountered in the first book.

I like the way Marr works, unbound by the constraints of normal police rules and regulations. He's not above breaking the law, using physical threats or intimidating tactics to bring him closer to the truth. I enjoyed the look at the seedy side of DC, the drug gangs, the low level dealers and the way they operate. I enjoyed Marr's company on surveillance and his meetings with the police, his sharing of information and the uncovering of his ex-partner's dirty secret along the way. I like the way he tries to protect his friend by limiting what he shares.

It was interesting to see how he bonded with Calvin, his reluctant apprentice with the evolution of their relationship throughout the book. Their relationship moving from hatred and distrust, to something more solid and hopeful. There's a lot to be said for second chances and forgiveness.

I quite enjoyed seeing the investigation - mainly unofficial - into the death of a black teenager at the hands of a cop. It's a subject that has been prominent recently with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent highlighting of shootings and deaths by the police. Here our focus is mainly from the perspective of the shooter, as opposed to from the side of the victim, but Marr (and Swinson) is even-handed in pursuit of the truth, regardless of the consequences for his friend. It does highlight the complexity of a lot of incidents...... the situation, the perceived danger, the lighting, the speed at which events unfold, the confusion, the fear, the panic, the decision-making, the instincts, the training... not everything is as simple as black and white.

Topical, interesting, relevant, entertaining, decent characters, decent pace, enjoyable setting, plenty of action, not over-long, satisfying outcome - all plusses for me.

4.5 from 5

The two earlier Frank Marr books are The Second Girl and Crime Song. Trigger can be enjoyed as a standalone, but if you're a bit OCD like me you may want to start at the beginning. I'd don't think you'll be sorry if you do.

Read - June, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 352
Source - initially Net Galley, courtesy of Mulholland Books, but I bought a copy after my link expired
Format - ePub read on laptop (50%), trade paperback (50%)
Was this review helpful?
Trigger is a good, gritty detective novel featuring a man seeking redemption for himself as much as proof that his old friend did not shoot an unarmed civilian.  This book has a dark tone and less-than-perfect characters that you can’t help but root for anyway. Fast-paced and tense, this book ended up being a quick read for me. Fans of police procedurals and old noir novels should love this series.
Was this review helpful?
David Swinson
Mulholland Books/Little, Brown
ISBN 978-0-316-26425-9

TRIGGER makes for wonderfully dark reading. The point of its spear is Frankie Marr, an ex-Washington DC cop with a troop of monkeys on his back. Marr was introduced to the world by author David Swinson --- a retired DC police detective himself --- in the acclaimed novel THE SECOND GIRL, the promise of which was fulfilled and exceeded by 2017’s CRIME SONG. TRIGGER, the third book in the Marr trilogy --- more on that in a bit --- finds Marr walking a fine and precarious line as he attempts to aid an old friend while unexpectedly serving as a mentor to a former adversary, all the while fighting his own very strong and ever-present demons. 

Marr’s substance addiction forced him into early retirement from the Washington DC Metro Police department. Bouncing back from a rock bottom hard landing, Marr supports himself with a public job as a private investigator working for Leslie, a defense attorney who also happens to be his ex-girlfriend. He also does a bit of work under the table, if you will, robbing the stash houses he became acquainted with as a police detective and using the cash proceeds to supplement his income and do a little good on the side, even as he constantly tests himself by flushing the drugs he confiscates down the sewer rather than his own body. The bedrock of TRIGGER is more of the same, but there is a new wrinkle. Al Luna, Marr’s best bud from his police days, is in a world of trouble for shooting an unarmed suspect.    Luna is adamant that the guy was armed and pointing a gun at him but the weapon cannot be found. The shooting is investigated while there is, of course, a rush to judgment on the streets. Marr uses his street contacts to work backward, trying to ascertain what the now-deceased suspect was doing in the hours leading up to his fatal confrontation with Luna. Tamie Darling, a longtime informant used by both Marr and Luna, figures in the story as Marr uncovers some uncomfortable truths about his friend that he wishes he hadn’t. Meanwhile, Marr meets up with a figure from his past, a young gangbanger known as Playboy (real name: Calvin) whose life Marr spared when he didn’t really have to. The two circle each other gingerly, but Marr sees something in Calvin and takes a chance, taking him on as a paid associate with an angle toward accessing the street that Marr doesn’t have. The partnership is uneasy at first but tentatively and gradually becomes productive for both men even as a fragile trust --- that most precious of commodities --- is constructed between them. As Marr comes ever closer to obtaining the truth of what occurred on Luna’s fateful night, however, the street becomes increasingly dangerous for him as he becomes a target by virtue of his association with Luna. Marr’s addictions, meanwhile, wait patiently for a slip and a fall. It will take all of Marr’s strength and street knowledge to see his way clear to the other side of his dilemma. It may not be enough. 

The conclusion of TRIGGER contains resolution --- some satisfactory, some otherwise --- on all fronts but certainly leaves the door open for more stories in the future. The Marr series was originally conceived as a trilogy but the complexities of the character as well as the secondary players in this series are too original and interesting to be consigned to the dust bin. We’ll have to wait to see if Swinson will continue with things --- perhaps in another three-book arc --- but for now we have TRIGGER and its predecessors, which are each and all worth your time and lucre. Recommended. 

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
© Copyright2019, The Book Report, Inc. All rights reserved.
Was this review helpful?
This was an edgy and intense police thriller that follows Frank Marr, newly retired from the Washington D.C. police department, who now works as an investigator for a defense attorney's office. His former partner, Al, is involved in the shooting of a black teenager and Frank begins investigating the surrounding circumstances. The story is told from Frank's perspective in his voice as he works through the process of determining whether Al killed a seemingly unarmed teen, making this incredibly gripping and gritty. Frank doesn't shy away from graphic content, which creates such a realistic story with authentic content, especially given the author's own police background. Short chapters driven by quick, focused, and earnest dialogue kept the pacing swift, the tension high, and the pages turning, while also expressing the almost exact frenetic energy Frank seemed to embody as he tried to figure out what happened with his friend. 

We aren't privy to the information that the police are gathering to determine what charges Al may or may not face other than what Frank can gather, which ultimately made me feel as though I was missing the complete procedural element of the investigation. But personal preference aside, Frank is an incredibly driven and dedicated investigator whose skills by far make up for the lack of details from any coinciding investigation occurring off page. 

Although this was the third book in the series, I never felt that I was missing anything; however, considering the inner demons Frank battles at all moments of the day just to do his job, I do look forward to finding out more about his backstory from the prior books. His past drug use and resulting attempts to remain clean set him up as an unreliable narrator to blur the truth, yet surprisingly, he's the one that garners the most trust and respect. Additionally, a burgeoning and quite unexpected connection with a previous character provides him with the opportunity to become a mentor/father figure that I am highly intrigued to read more of. 

Overall, this well written plot was fascinating to read and really set some high expectations for the series as I read from the beginning and wait for future releases.
Was this review helpful?
Trigger is the fine third novel third novel featuring PI Frank Marr. Utterly engrossing and worth the read!
Was this review helpful?
Frank Marr is a private investigator who is trying to do good, while simultaneously battling his various (multiple) demons. The first two novels in David Swinson’s series — The Second Girl and Crime Song — were fantastic, and I blitzed through them back-to-back. Gripping, sharply written and populated with excellent characters, they are among the best novels I’ve read in years. As a result, Trigger was one of my most-anticipated novels of the year. I’m happy to report that it is another excellent crime novel, and did not disappoint.

Swinson doesn’t shy away from the grittier aspects of law enforcement in Washington, DC, nor does he paper over the fact that his protagonist is not the most ideal of heroes. Frank Marr is a fascinating character: a former cop, recovering cocaine addict, private investigator, and man of questionable morals. Marr is trying to reform himself, however. Trigger starts in a similar way to The Second Girl: Marr is breaking into a drug house. However, unlike in the first novel, he flushes the drugs he finds (while still taking the cash). Marr’s been clean(-ish) for about three years, now, but that itch is always there — it is one of the “triggers” of the title.

Swinson is very skilled at showing, rather than telling. It is in the small moments that he illustrates the tensions between Washington law enforcement and civilians: the tensions as well as the prejudices, the ingrained and systemic biases — many of which create or reinforce the spiral of distrust, overreaction and aggression. Almost every character is not being their best self, but the novel doesn’t feel relentlessly dark. Swinson has put them in positions that force them to confront their decisions, betrayals, compromises and prejudices. There is some social and political commentary, but it is expertly woven into the novel to not drown out the story — it’s relevant, stated in a manner reflective of who we believe Marr to be (the novel is told from his perspective).

At the centre of this novel is an officer-involved shooting, of an apparently-unarmed youth. The officer in question is one of Marr’s former partners and best friends, and he’s called in to conduct his own investigation of what happened, and see if Luna’s memory is correct (or if he’s lying). Throughout the novel, we are left wondering how Marr will react to whatever he finds — given his sketchy character and background, will he follow the evidence where it goes, regardless of what it means for his friend?

Trigger shows Marr growing and evolving as a character. He’s trying to make amends for some of his reprehensible, criminal behaviour in the past. He’s not very adept at it, but he manages to stumble into doing good in his own, inimitable way. He’s not averse to manipulating evidence or crime scenes in order to point the police in the right direction — he is, above all, a survivor. Even when he’s doing stuff that should set off alarm bells, readers can’t help but root for him, knowing that there is probably a good reason for it. (Not that, in real life, we should reward bad behaviour.) Calvin’s addition (well, return) to the series is especially welcome, and opens up a lot of possibilities for future instalments — indeed, the end of the novel suggests Swinson has plans to keep him around.

Excellent prose, three-dimensional and realistic characters, and an interesting story. Trigger is a really good read. Very highly recommended to all fans of crime fiction. The Frank Marr series remains one of my favourites.
Was this review helpful?