Before I get to the book, I must talk about ignorance. Not the author's. Mine. This ignorance has a very important bearing on the story, so perhaps my enlightenment will save you the confusion I suffered.
See the book cover? See how the word "covenant" has a knife forming the letter 't'? If you were to ask me before I read this book what kind of knife it was, I would probably have said, "a hunting knife". You see, I am female and really detest weapons. My dad was a cop and though he kept guns in the house, I always felt it was a necessary evil for his job. I was not the least bit tempted to touch them or to learn how to shoot them. I affirm the constitutional right for citizens to bear arms, but I personally would rather never see any weapons. At all. Ever. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. No thanks, I pass.
However, I do watch movies on occasion, and I saw a very similar knife in the movie "Crocodile Dundee". You might remember the scene. In the New York subway, some gang-type pulls a switchblade on Dundee and his New Yorker host/girlfriend. The girl is appropriately scared and says, "Give him whatever he wants. He's got a knife." Then Dundee laughs and says, "That's not a knife. This..." and here he displays his massive hunting knife which he has used to slay crocodiles (and which looks exactly like the knife on the book cover), "is a knife." Would-be mugger turns tail and runs. Audience laughs.
Okay, so what's the problem? Well, at the very beginning of this book, we have a murder of a priest and the murder weapon is left in the victim. The weapon? A bayonet. All right. I know what a bayonet is. I have read history books. Bayonets were invented in the French town Bayonne. They were long spikes added to the ends of muskets because early firearms required so much time to load that the enemy could overrun you while you were loading your next shot. Bayonets were weapons of last resort, for use in hand-to-hand combat when you couldn't shoot.
I even knew what bayonets looked like. Illustrations from the American Revolution are positively brimming with these because the point is to show how mismatched the Patriots were to the much-better armed Redcoats. So this is what I picture when I read the word "bayonet":
But fairly early in The 3rd Covenant, they start talking about the handle of the bayonet having fingerprints. Wait a minute. Handle? I'm thinking they must mean a rifle of some type, but that doesn't seem to fit. Furthermore, the blade is stuck and the rib bones won't let go until it is twisted. But aren't bayonets more or less like an ice pick? How could one lodge between two ribs in such a way that twisting would make it release?
Well, to make a long story only slightly shorter, I finally had to look up the word. Evidently, English has expanded bayonet to mean just about every kind of military blade ranging from what I would call a "saber" to what I would call a "hunting knife". No firearm required. Great. Why didn't I get the memo? That t-substitute on the book cover is actually called a bayonet. It isn't the author's nor the cover artist's fault that I didn't know what that knife was called. But you, dear reader, may now be spared the embarrassment of suffering the same ignorance, because I have educated you. Forget history. Forget French towns and American Revolutions. In this book, a bayonet is a honkin' big knife with a wide, thick blade and a handle. Now that I have labelled the cover illustration so you don't have to consult "Knife Names for Dummies", we can get on with the review.
First of all, The 3rd Covenant by David Brollier is not a typical mystery. We know whodunit from the very beginning. The main characters know whodunit very, very early in the story too. And despite there being a CSI character in the book and the setting being New York City and environs, this is not a CSI: New York type of story either. If I had to relate this to something known, I would say this was like Columbo's Memoirs.
Remember the trenchcoat-clad Peter Falk from the old ABC Mystery of the Week series? Lt. Columbo almost always knew who committed the crime right from the start, but knowing and proving are two different things. Unlike Columbo, who spent every episode asking suspects the hard questions, investigating, and then going back to ask more, The 3rd Covenant's CSI and cop team have the disadvantage of not being able to find all the people they would like to question. So it's not a "whodunit" or even a "howdunit", but more of a "where-are-these-dastardly-culprits" and "how-can-we-prove-they-did-it-so-we-can-put-them-away" kind of mystery.
I say it reads like a memoir because The 3rd Covenant is written in first person, told from the point of view of the cop character, Nathan Adams. But the narrator is omniscient and tells us details Det. Adams couldn't possibly know. It is as if Adams asked his buddies over the years, and then guessed the thoughts, motivations, and actions of the criminals to put together this story at some point after the fact. This wouldn't be my choice for point-of-view, but who am I to talk when I myself decline to use commercial fiction's darling, i.e. Deep Limited POV. Non-authors probably wouldn't notice. Deadly Ink sure didn't care. They nominated The 3rd Covenant for the David G. Sasher, Sr. Award for the Best Mystery Novel of 2006.
So what is the story about? A cult leader who calls himself "the bishop" is using his "congregation" of ex-cons and miscreants to commit serial killings with big honkin' knives (aka bayonets). During the investigation, Nathan's wife gets kidnapped and the cop's kung fu buddies volunteer to find and rescue her. Having a member of a cop's family stalked and kidnapped sure pushed all my "worst nightmare" buttons. Being a cop's daughter, I lived a good portion of my life in fear of that very scenario. I don't want to ruin the book's ending, so I won't tell any more of the plot. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of surprises, all the way to the end.
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