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The Eulogist

The Eulogist - Jeffrey B. Burton

The Eulogist is the latest FBI special agent Drew Cady mystery following The Chessman (2012) and The Lynchpin (2015). If the preceding novels are anything like The Eulogist, readers should expect surprising and fresh twists to well-established murder mystery formulas.

In The Eulogist, the strangeness starts with the very first pages when we see Senator Taylor Brockman tied to a chair, forced to listen to his murderer deliver the senator’s pre-mortem eulogy. Shortly afterward, druggie Thaddeus Jay Aadalen—known as T.J. -- is found dead in his car, stabbed through the heart just like Brockman had been. He too has an eulogy for detectives to find, in his case a Thomas Gray poem hidden in his glovebox.

Agent Cady is drawn into investigating these two cases even though he’s only in Washington D.C. as the FBI liaison for the Medicare Fraud Strike Force out of Minneapolis. Along with representatives from other like groups, Cady is there to assist testimonials before the United States Senate Committee on Finance. But the FBI pulls Cady away from such tedious duties and pairs him with agent Liz Preston to look into the murders which don’t end with the senator and the druggie.

Like most contemporary mysteries, things get very complicated very quickly. We meet the hired assassin known as the Canadian who reveals much about their background, notably his, or her, admittedly being an adrenalin junkie. Threads of the investigation dig into a breakthrough Alzheimer's drug, a reluctantly helpful hacker, two potential heirs to a drug fortune, and alternating points of view showing just how the Canadian and the investigators go through their various procedures.

One distinguishing aspect of the novel is an often sarcastic streak of humor. One example is a moment where a character reflects on the concept of someone dying “doing so while doing what they loved.” The character wonders how that idea makes any sense when most people would rather live and not die at all, whatever the circumstances. Few people are likely thinking “At least I’m doing what I love” as they crash into a cliff, are eaten by sharks, or the like.

Burton mixes in some obligatory murder mystery tropes including a number of red herrings, very unexpected twists, and surprises that seem to come out of the blue in the final pages. In short, murder mystery fans should feel very comfortable with The Eulogist while they enjoy the inventiveness of Jeffrey Burton.

This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Aug. 31, 2017: