Monday, November 6, 2023

INCENTIVE FOR DEATH: A Novel, new procedural novel from debut author Spoohour


Oceanview Publishing
$28.95 hardcover, available now

Rating: 3.75* of five

The Publisher Says: They all sold their life insurance policies to the same company—and now they’ re all dead. Mac and Oliver are on the case.

On a beautiful spring morning in Washington, D.C., a high-profile attorney is found dead in his office. McDermott “Mac” Burke and Oliver Shaw, homicide investigators for the Metropolitan Police Department, are called to investigate. There appear to be no signs of foul play, but there is also no obvious sign of a natural cause of death.

The detectives are perplexed until the medical examiner notices a tiny pin prick on the lawyer’s neck and theorizes that the man was injected with succinylcholine—aka “sux”—which is a common horse tranquilizer that dissipates quickly in the body.

As Mac and Oliver begin to look further, they discover that the lawyer had sold his life insurance policy to a large viatical company. Then, they realize that more deaths under mysterious circumstances have occurred among those who’ve sold their policies to the same company.


My Review
: Lots of coincidences, lots of conveniently available people able and willing on no notice at all to answer the detectives' questions, and the men investigating the crimes (that might not be crimes) never follow a blind alley or take a wrong turn for long. No one in their chain of command ever questions how they got the information they have, taking their word for whatever they're saying without pushback or demands for sources.

Mac is divorced from Maggie. She lives with him still. She also breaks rules (sort of, that is if as she's hinted at being employed by A Gummint Intelligence Agency she sure as heck does) to help him out. Everyone loves these guys! They're so lovable, hell, I'd marry 'em both!

That's really the sum total of my grumbling. Oh, and the fact that they rehash basically the entire case to date whenever they talk to someone new. What works for me is their inability to set aside the essential unfairness of the viatical "services" industry, which I learned about in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic. Lots of gay men had the kind of jobs that come with life insurance, and were definitely not going to live very long; a large number of them sold their life insurance collection rights to investors for 50% of face value so as to be able to live with some shreds of dignity until they died.

Capitalism rots.

So anyway, the detectives don't think hurrying the inevitable in order to maximize your profits is acceptable investment management, and set about proving that's what some unkind souls have done. That they succeed is inherent in the genre. The way they go about achieving that success is the fun part. I enjoyed their antics, for the most part, and will definitely read the next one in the series. Oceanview, a relatively new player on the series-mystery publishing scene, is doing a lot of books like this one...not Big Names, unconventional plots and detectives, settings one doesn't necessarily expect for the kind of mystery being told. This one, set in Washington, DC, for's not race-based "urban" or rankly political, it's an interesting business crime. I am all for this publishing house keeping up the good work they're doing with worthwhile new authors like (retired? lawyer) James Spoonhour.

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