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Degrees of Murder by Kevin P. Murphy

Degrees of Murder

by Kevin P. Murphy

232 pages
Rust Belt town police chief recruits friend at local university to help solve an apparently unrelated series of baffling murders.

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Category: Fiction:Mystery
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About the Book
The town of Lackenby, Illinois, battered by a sudden series of murders, has become an uneasy place, where no one can be sure that he or she is not the next target of the killer -- or killers -- presently running rings around local investigators.

Police Chief Joe Weiss, once of the New York City Homicide Division, is stymied by the fast-paced occurrence of apparently unrelated killings. Lackenby is not accustomed to such violence. Weiss needs answers, but he isn't even sure of the questions as he calls on an old friend, Matt Shea, a behavioral sciences professor at State Line University whose career history includes extensive investigative work.

Matt Shea welcomes his friend's invitation. He and Weiss get down to the business of finding a pattern, if any, to the widely diverse murders, with Weiss's hard-pressed staff as their sole back-up -- until a well-meaning group of Shea's students complicates the process even further, turning the streets of Lackenby into a shooting gallery in which they become prime targets.

But the present murder wave is a phenomenon like nothing the community, the university, or the investigators have experienced before. Bodies of students and non-students turn up with too great frequency, killed in too many different ways for residents to feel that there is any predictability, something that they might be able to take logical precautions against. Even as Weiss and Shea take up the battle, violent death continues to strike down apparently randomly-selected victims, sometimes practically within their view.

Before any resolution is achieved, people precious to the protagonists will be put at great risk, and difficult questions will be raised about the limits of one's responsibility to anticipate and prevent the kind of crimes that have shattered the peace of this solid community.

The northwest Indiana/southeast Chicago region -- once the dynamo that drove the two states' economies in high gear for the better part of a century critical to the development of the United States as a major world power -- has fallen into a devastating economic decline, largely because of the flight of the steel industry. Lackenby survives, partly because of the tenacity of the multi-hyphenated Americans who made the region thrive in the first place, and partly because of the academic reputation of Lackenby's State Line University, the most significant remaining economic stimulus to the community and its immediate neighbors on both sides of the Illinois-Indiana state line.

Set in the 1980's, when the future still looked especially unpromising to the region, Degrees of Murder mixes classroom process with criminal investigative procedure, snappy dialogue with grim reality, human idealism with human criminality, in an intense three weeks that shake the core of a tough community, as experienced by a stimulating and diverse cast of characters.


Murphy creates almost a modern day American Poirot, as Weiss and Shea puzzle their way through serial homicides. There is plenty of action to satisfy the reader; much of the trivial police work is handled by officers, leaving Weiss and Shea to formulate their theories. Murphy creates a clever twist and denouement, by placing the killer right smack under their noses. The final chapters contain the chase, which is suspenseful, intriguing, and just plain great entertainment.
- Shelley Glodowski, The Midwest Book Review


Related Titles
  • Something Bright and Alien by Kevin P. Murphy
    A worker in the first space colony goes berserk. Then, the counselor helping that worker becomes an assassin's target, for no apparent reason. And the mystery deepens.
  • Unfriendly Fire by Kevin P. Murphy
    Dramatized account of the 1937 Republic Steel Memorial Day Massacre.
  • Out of Order by Kevin P. Murphy
    Assassins pursue a nun and a reporter in desperate chase.


About the Author
Kevin P. Murphy Kevin P. Murphy is a freelance writer and videographer living and working in Chicago. With experience in military security and police work, graduate degree in Sociology, and decades of teaching experience, his more than 1500 articles have been published in newspaper, magazine and Internet venues.

His novel, Degrees of Murder (BookLocker) has been awarded 5 stars by reviewers, and his second novel in that series, Out of Order (BookLocker), has received similar positive reviews.

His full-length play, "Something Bright and Alien," was an award winner in the 1998 Ridgewriters (Branch of the California Writers Club) Screenplay competition.

Another of his plays, "Unfriendly Fire" (BookLocker) had its premiere at the site of the union hall that emerged from the major labor crisis depicted in that play, with the late Studs Terkel as the host on opening night.

As videographer, he currently has more than 360 community-focused videos posted on his YouTube site, a number that increases regularly, given the vibrance of the Southeast Chicago community in which he lives.



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