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Madman on a Drum: A McKenzie Novel    by David Housewright order for
Madman on a Drum
by David Housewright
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Madman on a Drum is a top-notch thriller from David Housewright, the Edgar Award-winning author of seven other novels (four featuring Rushmore McKenzie and three featuring Holland Taylor). When the non-stop, pulse-pounding action begins, Victoria, the twelve year old daughter of homicide detective Robert Dunston, has been kidnapped while on her way home from school in St. Paul, Minnesota. The kidnappers soon make their ransom demand absolutely clear: they want $1 million.

Coming up with the ransom money may be the easy part of resolving the Dunston family's crisis (and the kidnappers know it) because Dunston's lifelong friend and former cop Rushmore McKenzie is a multi-millionaire (having collected a $3.1 million reward several years ago for locating and turning in Thomas Teachwell, an elusive and very shrewd embezzler); the kidnappers make it clear in their several telephone calls to Dunston and McKenzie that either the $1 million is delivered by McKenzie, absolutely according to the kidnappers' instructions, or the Dunston family will never see Victoria again. Because of McKenzie's absolute devotion to the Dunston family, there is no question that he will provide the ransom money.

Well, so much for the easy part of the problem. The difficult parts of the problem remain ahead as death-defying, nerve-shattering challenges: delivering the money; getting Victoria safely returned to her family; and - notwithstanding the FBI's considerable involvement in the case and their strenuous objections - McKenzie's single-minded pursuit and capture of whoever is responsible for Victoria Dunston's nightmarish kidnapping.

Dunston and McKenzie realize that early evidence points to a surprising suspect, and - without many other clues to work with - McKenzie springs into action. However, everything becomes even more difficult and dangerous as some people connected to the kidnapping case are murdered and McKenzie's own life is increasingly endangered. Only if McKenzie can discover and stop the mastermind behind the kidnapping will he be able to put an end to the growing number of killings and - at the same time - save himself and others. McKenzie, however, is hardly ready for the shocking discoveries that will finally bring everything to a conclusion.

With plenty of twists-and-turns in the plotting, with a remarkable cast of fascinating characters, and with lucid verbal snapshots of life in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Madman on a Drum confirms David Housewright's growing reputation as a master of the suspense-filled urban noir thriller. Madman on a Drum is highly recommended, and first-time readers of Housewright will be eager to go back and discover the rest of this accomplished author's superb work.

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