Playing God: A Joe Burgess Mystery


This star-reviewed debut novel introduces Portland, Maine police detective Joe Burgess.

On an icy February night, an office on patrol in Portland, Maine discovers the body of a prominent local physician in his parked Mercedes. The motor's running, the radio's playing, but Dr. Steven Pleasant is already growing cold. Despite the unusual weapon-a sharpened metal rod rammed down the doctor's throat-Sgt. Joe Burgess finds all the signs of a john killed by a disgruntled hooker. ...

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This star-reviewed debut novel introduces Portland, Maine police detective Joe Burgess.

On an icy February night, an office on patrol in Portland, Maine discovers the body of a prominent local physician in his parked Mercedes. The motor's running, the radio's playing, but Dr. Steven Pleasant is already growing cold. Despite the unusual weapon-a sharpened metal rod rammed down the doctor's throat-Sgt. Joe Burgess finds all the signs of a john killed by a disgruntled hooker. Pleasant's wallet is missing, his pants unzipped, and he has a reputation for entertaining girls in his car.

But as things unfold for Burgess and his investigative teammates Terry Kyle and Stan Perry, the case is anything but straightforward. Dr. Pleasant was not known for his soothing bedside manner.
Investigations reveal a greedy and ambitious man with an eager eye on the bottom line.

The deeper they probe, the muddier the picture grows. Pleasant's colleagues and the hospital staff aren't forthcoming. Pleasant's former wife said she wished him dead. On the night he died, Pleasant was with a gorgeous mystery girl unknown to anyone on the street. Pleasant is rumored to have been a source for Oxycontin. While the team juggles hookers, wives, ex-wives, fathers, step-fathers, dealers, and doctors, many with something to hide, and searches for the mystery girl, a nurse from Pleasant's staff suggest another angle-a disgruntled patient.

The trail leads from the doorsteps of supercilious millionaires to the living rooms of shotgun wielding women and at long last back to the hospital, where late one night, Burgess confronts the ghosts of his past and what being a detective really means.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Flora's dazzling debut police procedural introduces Sgt. Joe Burgess, a crusty but bighearted Portland, Maine, cop. "This case has everything," Joe says of a murder he's investigating, "unhappy wife, angry ex. Hookers. Drugs. Money problems. Maybe blackmail." The distinctly unsympathetic victim, Dr. Stephen Pleasant, is found in his Mercedes with his pants down, a rod rammed down his throat and two shades of lipstick smeared on his chest. It turns out he had a three-hooker-a-week habit, and one of the suspects is Alana Black, a sexy young prostitute Burgess has been trying to help for years. But evidence suggests another woman at the scene and tracking her down proves difficult and dangerous for Alana and Joe, testing his tenacity, patience and faith-not only as he pursues justice but as he faces his personal demons. Flora (Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine) leaves some tantalizing loose ends at the conclusion, hinting at future entries in this promising new series. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
On a cold and snowy night in Portland, ME, Police Detective Joe Burgess catches a nasty murder case: oncologist Steven Pleasant, who had a habit of picking up prostitutes, is found dead in his car with a metal rod rammed down his throat. No one wants to talk to the police, yet both his family and his work colleagues knew about his sordid predilection. Flora, author of the Thea Kozak series (An Educated Death), has written a dark, brooding novel about a cop who, despite his personal demons and dislike for the murder victim, won't quit until the guilty party is brought to justice. This is a triumph in the police procedural genre. Highly recommended for all collections. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
After six cases for educational consultant Thea Kozak (Liberty or Death, 2003, etc.), Flora produces a police procedural starring a Maine cop almost as tough as Thea. Sgt. Joe Burgess is Portland's meanest cop, so he's perfect for heading the investigation into the death of Dr. Stephen Pleasant, found in his car on a bitter cold night with his pants unzipped and his throat impaled by a steel rod. Dr. Pleasant's fondness for the company of prostitutes promises to turn the case as blue as his skin. When his colleagues at Pine State Radiology stonewall the most routine questioning and the long-suffering widow's old-money father warns that the police had better shield his little girl from the tawdry details, it's obvious that only Portland's meanest cop will have the guts to keep pushing. Even so, Burgess isn't all that mean. Sure, he attacked a hated superior years ago for torpedoing his case against a murderous, well-connected child-molester-a case that still haunts Burgess. But he's too sensitive to believe the whoppers he's told about the good doctor's personal and professional life, too resilient to be sidelined by beatings and shootings and too noble to yield his virtue to Alana Black, a hooker with the hots for him. Even though Burgess's meanness is well within normal limits for the genre, his passionate work here earns him a year's leave-most of it no doubt devoted to physical therapy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780989576703
  • Publisher: Sennebec Hill Press
  • Publication date: 6/25/2013
  • Pages: 284
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    interesting police procedural

    On a wintry night in Portland, Maine, patrol officer Remy Aucoin discovers the corpse of a man sitting in his Mercedes. Detective Joe Burgess heads the investigation into the murder of prominent radiologist Dr. Steven Pleasant, who was known for entertaining call girls in his car. The crime scene makes it appear that a hooker, angered with her John, committed the homicide by shoving a steel rod down his throat. Joe and his team, Terry Kyle and Stan Perry, begin to investigate seeking the motive. They talk with the spouse, who knew her husband went elsewhere for his needs and allegedly wanted him dead. That is followed up with other family members who also hated Steven. The cops visit his medical partners and his helpers who are reticent about the deceased, but inadvertently describe the victim as an ambitious person coveting fast money. Finally they talk with hookers who knew the doctor intimately. Soon they uncover inconclusive evidence that Dr. Pleasant was selling Oxycontin while a nurse quietly claims he alienated patients. The potential list of people with a motive, means, and opportunity keeps growing as the victim was not a pleasant person to work with. --- This is an interesting police procedural starring the so called ¿meanest¿ cop in Maine, but readers will see that no nonsense Joe is actually a caring person who does not abide with official stupidity. The story line is fast-paced (part of the reason is to stay warm while at an outdoor crime scene in winter) as the number of people with a motive mounts exponentially with every subgroup that were part of the unpleasant Steven¿s circle. Leaving Thea Kozak to thaw out, Kate Flora provides readers with an entertaining hard boiled murder mystery. --- Harriet Klausner

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