Tuesday, February 28, 2023

[Review] — Ron Franscell's "DEAF ROW"

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Retired from a big-city homicide beat to a small Colorado mountain town, ex-detective Woodrow "Mountain" Bell yearns only to fade away. He's failed in so many ways as a father, a husband, friend, and cop that it might be too late for a meaningful life. When he stumbles across a long-forgotten, unsolved child murder, his first impulse is to let it lie ... but he can't. He's drawn into the macabre mystery when he realizes the killer might still be near. Without help from ambivalent local cops, Bell must overcome the obstacles of time, age, and a lack of police resources by calling upon the unique skills of the end-of-the-road codgers he meets for coffee every morning—a club of old guys who call themselves Deaf Row. Soon, this mottled crew finds itself on a collision course with a serial butcher. 

DEAF ROW is more than a tense mystery novel, more than an unnerving psychological thriller drawn from Ron Franscell's career as a bestselling true-crime writer and journalist. It is also a novel of men pushing back against time and death, trying not to disappear entirely. DEAF ROW is a moving, occasionally humorous, portrait of flawed people caught in a web of pain and regret. And although you might think you know where this ghastly case is headed, the climax will blindside you. 

I'm not sure why mysteries draw me in, but lately, I've been devouring these yarns. Although DEAF ROW's cover and blurb may appear "generic" at first sight, the novel has a solid narrative that will please lovers of C.J. Box and Lee Child, two authors I've only begun reading within the last year. This is my first time reading anything by author Ron Franscell, whom I'm mortified to admit I'd never heard of until this book. And after reading DEAF ROW, I'm impressed with his narrative skills. He created fully realized characters, provided the readers with in-depth descriptions, and included a few twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages. 

It appealed to me that an elderly group, calling themselves DEAF ROW, in a little mountain town in Colorado would team up to try to solve a mystery. I found Woodrow "Mountain" Bell, the novel's primary protagonist and a former homicide detective, to be a fascinating and well-rounded character. Overall, DEAF ROW is a masterfully written mystery that kept me turning the pages until I reached the very end. ╌★★★★★

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A veteran journalist, Ron Franscell is the New York Times bestselling author of 18 books, including international bestsellers “The Darkest Night” and Edgar-nominated true crime “Morgue: A Life in Death.” His newest, “ShadowMan: An Elusive Psycho Killer and the Birth of FBI Profiling,” was released in March by Berkley/Penguin-Random House. 

His atmospheric and muscular writing—hailed by Ann Rule, Vincent Bugliosi, William Least-Heat Moon, and others—has established him as one of the most provocative American voices in narrative nonfiction. 

Ron’s first book, “Angel Fire,” was a USA Today bestselling literary novel listed by the San Francisco Chronicle among the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century West. His later success grew from blending techniques of fiction-writing with his daily journalism. The result was dramatic, detailed, and utterly true storytelling. 

Ron has established himself as a plucky reporter, too. As a senior writer at the Denver Post, he covered the evolution of the American West but shortly after 9/11, he was dispatched by the Post to cover the Middle East during the first months of the War on Terror. In 2004, he covered devastating Hurricane Rita from inside the storm. 

His book reviews and essays have been widely published in many of America’s biggest and best newspapers, such as the Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury-News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and others. He has been a guest on CNN, Fox News, NPR, the Today Show, ABC News, and he appears regularly on crime documentaries at Investigation Discovery, Oxygen, History Channel, Reelz, and A&E. 

 He lives in northern New Mexico.


  1. Thank you for such kind words about my new mystery DEAF ROW! You can be forgiven for being unfamiliar with my work, which has largely been in true crime for more tha 20 years. But DEAF ROW could be the start of something new! Agaian, thank you for featuring DEAF ROW today.

  2. Thank you for sharing your wonderful review of Deaf Row, this sounds like an excellent mystery read and I am looking forward to it

  3. Thanks for the review - I'm always on the hunt for a new mystery author and this sounds excellent.
    Terrie @ Bookshelf Journeys


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