William Heffernan

If there’s one trait we love to find in our cops, it’s empathy. Heffernan’s new lead, a Pinellas County (Florida) Sheriff’s Department detective, has plenty of it. When he was 10, his deep-ended religious mother killed him and his little brother to gain them early enrolment in heaven. The cops resuscitated Harry, though, and when he joins the force his past earns him the nickname the Dead Detective and gives him a sixth sense about how murdered victims died.

It’s about as good as a back story gets for a page-turning detective novel, and Heffernan ensures the book remains just as much about Harry as it does about the mystery he’s out to solve. A schoolteacher made famous (or notorious?) after she allegedly seduced a 14-year-old student is found murdered, and Harry is given the high-profile case. Meanwhile, his lovely mother is up for parole and writing him the kind of letters that would win no lucidity contest.

Heffernan trips up a bit with a fairly by-the-book murder mystery. It’s not that the whodunit doesn’t make us wonder who done it, but the story of the teacher’s murder simply can’t compare to Harry’s. With a protagonist like him, we were hoping for a slightly less conventional take on the mystery novel. But we have a feeling that Heffernan is setting us up for more dead detective novels, which we welcome like the zealots we are.