Detective Matt Brady of the Temple City police is up to his eyeballs with work. He has too many kidnapped women, no leads, and the chief of police is breathing down his neck with reminders of how the last time he worked a case like this, a woman died. As the kidnappers are always ten steps ahead, it’s looking like the time has come to hand the case off to the FBI, which would end Brady’s chance at redemption. So begins Alan Brenham’s detective novel, Cornered.
Burt Smith and his henchmen, Weaver and Chiles, appear to be more than a match for Detective Brady at the start of the novel. The villains are loose-cannons, capable of anything, but they still have their own personal lives to deal with. Smith is attempting to escape an unhappy marriage, hounded left and right by his ex-wife, while Weaver and Chiles are cons trying to put their lives back together. It would be easy for the reader to feel sympathetic for them, if they didn’t spend their spare time committing heinous criminal acts. The focus on all the characters, not just the protagonists, is what sets Brenham’s story apart.
The development of characters who would usually go unnoticed in other stories adds dimension to the novel. Brenham gives the reader an opportunity to connect with a little old woman yelling at Chiles and Weaver as they speed by her house, and to join Brady in reviling his least favorite detective who never shuts up. In giving the story that extra bit of depth though, Detective Brady and his romantic interest, a veterinarian named Tracy Rogers, lose a bit of the development they could have received in exchange for a fast and furious read.
Since the reader knows from the get go who the villains are, the overriding theme is how far is too far for the detective to use his position to thwart the villains’ next attempt and what the reasons are for the kidnappings. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking; Brady’s ex-girlfriend has gone all “Fatal Attraction” on him; and anyone involved in any way with the kidnappings—innocents, hit men, criminals, good guys, or opportunists are all in the crosshairs.
The switch between so many characters, whom the reader knows decently, keeps the excitement burning in the ever present question of what happens next. Moments where the reader expects to loathe the antagonists can elicit sympathy, where other scenes show their irredeemable qualities in vicious detail. The question of who will be saved and who will die, who will cut a deal and who will stick it out to the end, drives the story keeping the pages rapidly turning.
Cornered is definitely a story that moves against the grain. The reader spends equal time with villains and heroes, making the story focus more on the people than the criminal acts being committed. The tension Brenham builds through the switching of viewpoints creates a novel that commands the reader’s interest, along with giving unique perspectives of the individuals involved.
Cornered, Alan Brenham’s thriller novel is a winner and we look forward to reading more from this criminal law attorney and former law enforcement officer turned author.