Most novelists, even successful ones have day jobs. This is just an economic fact. If you’re a resident of Western Washington, you’re probably at least remotely familiar with the name Mark Lindquist, but there’s a good chance that you don’t know him from his novels. You know him as a Pierce County Prosecutor. Just last night he was on the local news prosecuting someone who killed three-year-old. While his actions in the court room are admirable, that’s just his day job. When he’s not prosecuting criminals, Mark Lindquist is a novelist and after reading his latest book, ‘King of Methlehem’, I’m happy to report he’s a good one.
As you’ve probably guessed by the title, ‘King of Methlehem’ hangs its plot around the significant problem of meth amphetamine use and the damage it does. This problem is personified in Howard Shultz, a Tweeker with an obsession for cooking up meth subsidized by identity theft scams. The mentality of a hardcore meth user and cook is so well captured in ‘King of Methlehem’ that if Mark Lindquist were anyone else, you’d ask him how long he had been on it.
Pursuing Howard is Tacoma Police Detective Wyatt James. From the beginning, James is almost as addicted to finding Howard as Howard is addicted to meth. The dialog is quick and fun. You can tell that Lindquist used to write screenplays. The whole thing is written in present tense which gives it a feeling of urgency.
Aiding Detective James is his friend and prosecutor, Mike. While Wyatt is the cowboy, Mike is the guy who tries to keep Wyatt grounded. When Mike gets going in the court room, you can really see Lindquist’s day job influencing his writing. You get the feeling Mike’s frustration echoes his own.
If you’re a Tacoma native, you’re going to feel right at home with ‘King of Methlehem’ . Lindquist uses real bars, businesses, streets, people, and history. In fact, there are times when I think he overdoes it. In one chapter where two characters are driving down Tacoma’s 6th Ave., he manages to mention seven businesses on one page. So while the book is seasoned with local color, I’d have to say sometimes it’s ‘over-seasoned’. This is as close as I can come to a criticism of ‘King of Methlehem’.
Ultimately, if you’re a fan of crime fiction, and definitely if you’re a local, ‘King of Methlehem’ is well worth your time. It’s like a local version of The Wire. And as anyone who knows how I feel about The Wire, that’s high praise indeed. I look forward to his next book and may check out his other books.
– Jack Cameron