Review of B.R. Stateham's "Murderous Passions"

B.R. Stateham’s “Murderous Passions” (Publish America, 2008) sets forth an ambitious task for its protagonists and readers: two detectives have four separate homicides to solve in one novel.

The result is manna for those starved for honest-to-goodness police procedurals. Stateham’s old school style shrugs off today’s trendy “CSI” and “Monk” procedural formats. He opts to cut straight to the bone of yesteryear, with a healthy dose of good ol’ boy testosterone. This is cut-and-dry, whack-‘em-and-stack-‘em cop porn. The good guys are good, the bad guys are bad and the beer is as cold as the dames are hot. “Passions” is a red-blooded novel paired best with the juices of a thick burger dripping down your chin.

Murderous Passions

Detective Sergeant Turner Hahn oozes with this masculinity. He’s even described as looking like classic alpha male Clark Gable. Hahn’s foil is Detective Sergeant Frank Morales, a round-headed chump who is stiff as lumber and hits just as hard. They trade shots at each other and the criminals they pursue as they muscle through the quartet of homicide cases.

Actually, it’s more like one case. The main focus of “Passions” is the grisly death of the late Dr. Walter Holdridge. The novel opens with Hahn and Morales inspecting the scene of the deceased professor in his laboratory. From there, they delve into a complex world of university grants, academic egomania and a fellow professor’s undergarments.

The three other homicide cases break up the Holdridge investigation with dent-your-face action scenes. The author has Hahn and Morales rushing from placid crime scenes to crack the skulls of the city’s most notorious dirt bags.

While these vignettes are entertaining, they are also distracting. Keeping track of four homicides can be as laborious for the reader as it is for the exhausted Hahn and Morales.

That isn’t to say the characters aren’t enough to hold attention. Hahn is the most interesting, given he is flush with inheritance and libido. But with the distraction of a four-case load, he doesn’t have time to let the reader explore his character. Hahn could easily hold his own were he given the space in a future work. But in “Passions,” the reader only sees the surface of what could become a classic crime fiction detective.

The same goes for the centerpiece case in “Passions,” the Holdridge homicide. It was interesting enough to warrant its own novel. It didn’t need three simultaneous cases as supplements. The result has the author breezing over facets of the case that beg for exploration.

Likewise, the other three cases do not receive the satisfying crunch of a case closed. They end at different spots within the novel’s timeframe, throwing off the reader’s sense of climax.

Still, “Passions” will find a place for police procedural enthusiasts yearning for the black-and-white detectives of yesteryear. Author Stateham has pushed the genre back to its no-BS roots. He’s in deep and he’s not full of it. Give Hahn and his case load a little room to breathe, and it’s only a matter of time before root-digging readers meet Stateham.

For more information, see the author’s Web site at Or just look him up here on CrimeSpace, where he is a regular contributor.

- Benjamin Sobieck

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Comment by J. F. Juzwik on October 16, 2009 at 3:01am
A great review--a superb book! Love these two cops. Can't get enough of Turner and Frank!
Comment by Donna Carrick on October 15, 2009 at 11:05pm
Wow, Ben, great review! Congrats, B.R.!
Comment by B.R.Stateham on October 15, 2009 at 3:06pm
Goodness, this was so unexpected. I wanted to make the attempt and persuade Ben that a few PublisheAmerica writers know how to write a novel. Apparently I succeeded.

Thanks, Ben . . . and I hope you get the opportunity to read the second book. If it's ever published it'll paint a more in-depth portrait of Turner.

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