Back when I first started reviewing books, one of the first I touched on was a little murder mystery called The Dispatcher. I praised it for it’s unique premise but found the actual execution of it to be pretty disappointing. After I wrote that review, I forgot about it, banishing it to the darkest recesses of my library.
Until just recently, when I discovered that it had a sequel. Murder By Other Means. So, in need of a quick read, I picked it up.
And I kind of loved it.
Years after the events of the first book, Dispatcher and protagonist Tony Valdez finds himself taking a less-than-legal job to help his client secure a business deal over in China. After doing this, however, Tony quickly finds himself caught up in a bank robbery. When the robbery goes wrong and one of the robbers ends up dead, Tony is suspected for being connected to it. When the officer investigating him ‘kills himself’, Tony is considered a suspect. In order to clear his name, he must work to unravel the mystery behind the robbery, the ‘murders’, and him. But the question is: can he survive long enough to do it?
The premise of death being nearly impossible unless someone dies via natural means or suicide is a strange premise, especially for a murder mystery. But it actually works super well! The unique rules and loopholes in the system are made perfectly clear to the audience and are used to fantastic effect in the story itself. It lends itself super well to the genre, despite what you’d expect!
One of my biggest issues with the first book was with the protagonist himself. In the previous entry, Tony really didn’t have a reason to get involved in solving a murder mystery. This time, his reason for getting involved in the events makes perfect sense, given that they are dragging him right into it. It makes the story that much more engaging and interesting.
The pacing is better, too! Sure, the story is still too short to fully flesh out everything. But this time around, the story actually has a visible sense of buildup and payoff! It ramps up super smoothly and crescendos beautifully!
The mystery itself is more engaging, too! It presents you with plenty of shocking events and twists, yet it lays out all the clues you would need to piece it together. Granted, it isn’t all that hard to do it; this isn’t as grand a mystery as, say, The Hounds of Baskerville. But it nails all the necessary mystery beats all the same.
I am genuinely amazed by how much of an improvement this book is. When I finished The Dispatcher, all I felt was disappointment. Now, finishing Murder By Other Means? I feel great! I’d gladly go back and read this one again! And I’d highly recommend you guys give it a chance!
Although, you do have to read the first one to get there. Hm… That’s a bit of a problem.