The Blue Edge of Midnight (Max Freeman Series #1)

The Blue Edge of Midnight (Max Freeman Series #1)

4.6 16
by Jonathon King

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Featuring ex-cop Max Freeman, The Blue Edge of Midnight marks the debut of a powerful new crime series.

Max Freeman's old life ended on a night that will haunt him forever. The night he killed a twelve-year-old child in self-defense in a Philadelphia shootout. The night he stopped being a cop. Now he lives an existence of solitary confinement on the edge of

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Featuring ex-cop Max Freeman, The Blue Edge of Midnight marks the debut of a powerful new crime series.

Max Freeman's old life ended on a night that will haunt him forever. The night he killed a twelve-year-old child in self-defense in a Philadelphia shootout. The night he stopped being a cop. Now he lives an existence of solitary confinement on the edge of the Florida Everglades, where he answers to no one but the demons that eat away at his conscience.

Until the night he finds the corpse of a child beside an ancient river. The night Max Freeman's past explodes into the present.

Suddenly, Freeman is thrust into the center of the search for a killer responsible for a string of grisly slayings that is baffling both local authorities and the F.B.I. Distrusted as an outsider by the longtime residents of the Glades and pulled into the case as suspect by the police, Freeman must walk a tenuous tightrope of distrust on both sides of the law. When another child goes missing, all eyes turn to Freeman-and the ex-cop, driven by his old habits and the memories of that long-ago Philadelphia midnight, knows that he has no choice but to hunt down the seemingly unstoppable murderer himself.

An electrifying story of crime, punishment, and one man's personal redemption played out against a backdrop of wild natural beauty in conflict with the modern urban world, The Blue Edge of Midnight heralds the arrival of a stunning new voice in contemporary crime fiction.

Author Biography: Jonathon King, a journalist for 20 years, began his career at the Philadelphia Daily News. He has covered crime and criminal courts and is now a national award-winning news feature writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The Blue Edge of Midnight is his first novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With his first novel, King jumps into James W. Hall territory and lands firmly on his feet. Ex-Philadelphia cop Max Freeman, haunted by his killing of an adolescent robber, has retreated to an isolated cabin in the Florida Everglades. When he discovers the body of a kidnapped youngster, the victim of a serial killer, Freeman becomes a suspect who can clear his name only by finding the murderer. Although this is an often-used plot device, the author's stylish prose and insider's knowledge of the sinuous, dangerous Everglades give the gimmick a fresh twist. Especially fine are the passages showing the different faces of Florida as Freeman travels between his austere cabin and the plush penthouse apartment of his Palm Beach lawyer, Billy Manchester. A scene in which Freeman seeks out a group of furtive Everglades natives in their natural habitat reeks with atmosphere. In fact, King uses descriptions of places and environment to reveal character and attitude, much as Hall, James Lee Burke and Robert B. Parker do, if not as smoothly as those established masters. While fans of Carl Hiaasen's black humor or Lawrence Shames's wacky characters may not find this novel to their taste, most readers should hail Freeman as an appealing addition to the already large roster of independent-minded Florida investigators. Skillful writing, original characters and evocative settings initiate a welcome new series. (Apr. 1) Forecast: With a prominent blurb from Michael Connelly, this crime debut by a feature writer for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel should get off to a strong start. Based on his ruggedly masculine author photo, King would seem a natural for the TV talk show circuit. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Just when you thought the Florida Everglades couldn't possibly sustain another detective, along comes Max Freeman in this fiction debut by King. About a year and a half before the start of the story, Max had moved to the swamps of southern Florida from Philadelphia to forget. A career cop until he shot a very young, armed black convenience-store robber, Max happens on the dead body of a child as he makes his obsessive rounds of the Everglades. Because this is the third such murder in the insular community recently, Max comes under suspicion himself and, in self-defense, starts investigating. Included among the suspects are the hunters and trappers, who are hurting from encroaching development; longtime residents, who detest the new arrivals; and environmentalists, who are regarded as loonies anyway. However, even such hot-button topics as serial murder and environmentalism can't keep this vessel afloat under the weight of the morose, obsessive, and totally humorless Max. An optional purchase in an already crowded field. Bob Lunn, Kansas City P.L., MO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Once a street-savvy Philadelphia cop, Max Freeman now spends his time canoeing in the Everglades where he uses the physical exertion of paddling to battle the nightmares he carries with him. His last active duty involved the accidental killing of a 12-year-old who was helping to rob a convenience store, and he still suffers from psychological wounds. When he finds a child's body on one of his nightly canoe trips, he becomes a suspect. Questioned by local police, he learns that this murder is one of a series recently committed close to his area and he begins the long, complex task of tracking down the perpetrator. King paints a vivid picture of the Everglades, intense enough to conjure up the hum of mosquitoes before they bite. Scenes come clearly to mind as he describes the heat, ever-present moisture, thunderstorms, and reptiles. The sense of place and the memorable main characters carry the plot without major doses of intense violence or language.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Philadelphia cop Max Freeman thought he'd left the worst of his life behind when he killed a 12-year-old thief in self-defense and left the force. Abandoned by the SWAT team wife whom he'd given up without a struggle when he saw where her eye was roving, he's taken his disability payoff and retreated from the civilized world into a stilted shack at the edge of the Florida Everglades. But the Glades can be as nightmarish as any blasted cityscape, as Freeman finds when the canvas-wrapped package his canoe nudges in a quiet river pool turns out to be a dead child. Alissa Gainey is the fourth victim of the Midnight Murderer, who's kidnapped and killed three other children in ways that suggest both the wildest side of Florida wildlife and the losing battle environmentalists are fighting against powerful developers and well-heeled tourists. Freeman's grisly discovery brings him to the attention of the joint task force partnering county sheriff's investigators and state law enforcement. It's a potent combination, and one that looks like more than a match for the beleaguered, and increasingly suspect, Freeman. Already tormented by flashbacks to his traumatic twelve years on the force, he finds himself hamstrung between cops eager to nail him for a horrendously unpopular series of crimes and a killer who seems to be dogging his every attempt to get to the bottom of the mystery with brutal disapproval. King's debut tells a familiar story with somber authority and a keen appreciation for the wildness of the Glades and its people.

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Product Details

Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
Max Freeman Series, #1
Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 6.82(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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I was a mile upriver, my feet planted on the stained concrete dam, back bent to the task of yanking my canoe over the abutment. It was past midnight and a three-quarter moon hung in the South Florida sky. In the spillover behind me, tea-colored water from the falls burbled and swirled, roiling up against itself and then spinning off in curls and spirals until going flat and black again downstream. Ahead I could see the outlines of thick tree limbs and dripping vine and the slow curve of water bending around a corner before it disappeared into darkness.

When I moved onto this river more than a year ago, my city eyes were nearly useless. My night vision had always been aided by street lamps, storefront displays, and headlights that swept the streets, crosshatching each other to create a web of light at every intersection. I'd spent my life on the Philadelphia streets, watching, gauging the hard flat shadows, interpreting the light from a door left ajar, waiting for a streak from a flashlight, anticipating the flare of a match strike. Out here, fifteen miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean in a swamped lowland forest, it took me a month to train my eyes to navigate in the night's natural light.

Tonight, in moonlight, the river was lit up like an avenue. When I got the canoe floated in the upstream pool, I braced myself with both hands on the rails at either side, balanced my right foot in the middle, steadied myself in a three-point stance, and pushed off onto quiet water.

I settled into the stern seat and pulled six or seven strokes to get upstream from the falls and then readied myself. The mile from my stilted shack had just been a warm-up. Now I'd get into the heavy work that had become my nightly ritual. This time of year in South Florida, high summer when the afternoon rains came like a rhythm, this ancient river to the Everglades spread its banks into the cypress and sabal palms and flooded the sawgrass and pond apple trees until the place looked more like a drowning forest than a tributary. It was also the time of year when a man with a head full of sour memories could power a canoe up the river's middle and muscle and sweat through yet another impossible night.

I tucked my right foot under the seat, propped my left forward against a rib, and was just pulling my first serious strokes when my eyes picked up a glow ahead in the root tangle of a big cypress.

Trash, I thought, pulling two strokes hard in that direction. Even out here you ran into civilization's callousness. But the package seemed too tight as I glided closer. Canvas, I could tell now from the cream-color of the cloth.

I took one more stroke and drifted up to what now appeared to be a bundle the size of a small duffel bag. The package was wedged softly into a crook of moss-covered root by the current. I reached out and prodded it with my paddle, loosening the hidden end from the shadows. When it finally slid out onto free water, moonlight caught it and settled on the calm, dead face of a child.

Air from deep in my throat held and then broke like a bubble in my mouth and I heard my own words come out in a whisper: "Sweet Jesus. Not again."


For a dozen years I'd been a cop in Philadelphia. I got in at the smooth-faced age of nineteen without my father's blessing. He was a cop. He didn't want me to follow. I went against his wishes, which had become a habit by then, and got through the academy the same way I'd gotten through school. I rode the system, did just enough to satisfy, didn't stand out, but tried always to stand up. My mother, bless her soul, called it a sin.

"Talent," she said, "is God's gift to you. What you do with it, is your gift back to him."

According to her, my talent was brains. My sin was using only half of them.

Police work came easy to me. At six feet three inches tall, and a little over two hundred pounds, I'd played some undistinguished football in high school and my friend Frankie O'Hara used to drag me into his father's South Philly gym once in a while to act as a stand-in sparring partner. My strength there was that I didn't mind getting hit. A shot in the face never bothered me much. How that trait worked with my other "talent," my mother could never explain. But the combination of a cloaked intelligence, some size, and an indifference to a crack on the nose made police work easy for me.

In my years on the force I'd climbed a bit of a ladder, taken some special assignments, worked for a short time in the detective bureau. I'd passed the sergeant's exam a couple of times. But misunderstandings with management and "Officer Freeman's seeming total lack of ambition" found me walking a downtown beat on the four-to-twelve shift. It was fine with me until the night I shot a child in the back.


It was near the end of my shift. I was standing out of a cold drizzle at Murphy's Newsstand, a little step-in shop next to a deli just off Broad Street. Murph peddled the daily newspapers, three shelves of magazines holding the monthly array of faked-up cleavage, and probably the most important item of his business, the daily racing forms. With some thirty years on the street, Murph was the most sour and skeptical human being I'd ever met. He was a huge lump of a man who sat for hours at a time on a four-legged stool with what seemed like half of his weight dripping over the sides of the small circular cushion. He had a fat face that folded in on itself like a two-week-old Halloween pumpkin and you couldn't tell the color of his small slit eyes. He was never without a cigar planted in the corner of his mouth.

"Max, you're a fuckin' idiot you stay on a job what wit da way they been stickin' it to ya," was his standard conversation with me every night for two years. He had a voice like gravel shuffling around in the bottom of a cardboard box. And he called everyone from the mayor to his own mother a "fuckin' idiot," so you didn't take it personally.

On that night he was grumbling over the day's results from Garden State Raceway when my radio started crackling with a report of a silent alarm at C&M's Stop and Shop on Thirteenth Street, just around the corner. I reached down to turn up the volume and Murph rolled the cigar with his tongue and that's when we heard the snap of small caliber gunfire in the distance. The old vendor looked straight into my face and for the first time in two years I could see that his eyes were a pale, clear blue.

"Casamir," he croaked as I started out the open door, my hand already going to the holster strap on my 9mm.

It doesn't take long for adrenaline to flush into your blood when you hear gunshots. As a cop in the city I had heard too many. And each time I had to fight the immediate urge to turn and walk the other way.

I was halfway to the corner and my normally slow heartbeat was banging in my chest. I was trying to set up a scene in my head of Casamir's place; second storefront around the corner, glass doors flush against the wall, dingy fluorescent lighting inside, Casamir with his too-big smile and that pissy little taped-handled .25 behind the counter. I wasn't thinking about the rain-slick sidewalk or the lack of decent cover when I made the corner and tried to plant my foot and went skidding out in full view of some kid's gun barrel.


I heard the crack of his pistol but barely registered the sharp smack against my neck and I came up on one knee, brought up the 9mm and saw the kid standing thirty feet away, a black hole of a gun barrel as his only eye. I was staring into that hole when I picked up the movement of something coming out of Casamir's door and then Snap, another round went off.

I hesitated for one bad instant, and then pulled the trigger. My weapon jumped. My eyes instinctively blinked. Chaos competed for only a second. And then the street went quiet.

The first kid went down without so much as a whimper. Casamir's .25 had sounded the third report of the night and caught the shooter in the street flush in the temple. My round hit the second boy, the one who had jumped out the door just as I hesitated. The 9mm slug caught him in the back between his skinny shoulder blades and he dropped. Unlike the Hollywood version, the kid didn't get blown back from the impact. He didn't get spun around. He didn't slowly crumple to his knees or try to reach out and call someone's name. He just melted.

The noise of my own gun was ringing in my ears and I must have been getting up because the angle of the scene was changing, but I didn't know how my knees were working.

Casamir was standing over the bodies by the time I made it thirty feet. He looked up at me, the old .25 hanging from his hand.

"Max?" he said, confused at my presence. His face was blank. His smile was gone. Maybe forever.

The first boy was facedown, the pistol that he had fired, first at Casamir and then at me, had clattered off into the gutter. The younger boy, mine, lay oddly twisted, his clothes, all baggy and black, seemed comically empty. But his face was turned up, his open eyes gone cloudy through long, childlike lashes. He couldn't have been more than twelve.

I was staring into that face when Murph, trailing from the newsstand, stepped up to my side and looked at me and then down at the kid.

"Fuckin' idiot," he says. But I wasn't sure which one of us he was talking about.

I was still staring into the boy's face, trying to breathe through a liquid burbling in my throat and then I heard Casamir repeating my name: "Max? Max?" And I looked up and he was staring at me and pointing to his neck and saying, "Max. You are shot." And suddenly that night, and that world, went softly black.

-Reprinted from The Blue Edge of Midnight by Jonathon King by permission of Dutton, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2002. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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Meet the Author

Jonathon King is an Edgar Award–winning mystery novelist and the creator of the bestselling Max Freeman crime series. Born in Lansing, Michigan, in the 1950s, King worked as a crime reporter in Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale for twenty-four years before becoming a full-time novelist. Along with the six books of the Max Freeman series, King has also authored the thriller Eye of Vengeance (2007) and the historical novel The Styx (2009). He lives in south Florida.

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The Blue Edge of Midnight 4.6 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't normally get caught up in detailed descriptions of locations and surroundings but Jonathon King's prose held me spell-bound through every bit of this book INCLUDING the descriptions of the locations and surroundings. All of the ingredients of a masterful murder mystery are here . . . but there is no gratuitous violence and no gratuitous sex scenes thrown in just to try to grab additional readers. If you love mysteries that provide clues along the way (along with plenty of good dialogue and descriptions and development of characters), then I highly recommend this book to you. On the other hand, if you are just looking for a "shoot 'em up" "mystery" filled with graphic descriptions of blood, guts, and sex scenes, you should avoid this book like the plague. This is an intellectual exercise rather than an exercise in titillation.
VictoriaAllman More than 1 year ago
I could not put The Blue Edge of Midnight down. Jonathon King has created one of the truest 'sense of place' in his depiction of the Everglades that I have ever read. I was sucked into this story by the authors knowledge of the Glades and the world he enters in the first chapter. The mystery surrounding Max Freeman's part of the river of grass is tight and well-thought out. My heart ached for the main character as he tried to solve the crime encroaching on his sanctuary in the wild and battled the demons of his past. As the mystery deepened, the tension rose and Max quickly became one of my favorite Florida characters. I am glad that The Blue Edge of Midnight is the start of a series. I will pick up the second book immediately after I come back from going for a paddle through the Everglades--I couldn't get the place out of my mind while reading this book. It is as much a travelogue as a mystery worthy of the Edgar award it won for the Best First Mystery. Victoria Allman author of: Seasoned: A Chef's Journey with Her Captain
Guest More than 1 year ago
Picked up the book, in hardcover, simply because it was inexpensive and a crime novel. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down, he has great talent, creates characters that one can relate to, and sets a beautiful scene for the reader with each turing page. Before I even finished the book, a ordered his second book, A Visible Darkness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've never written a review before, but I just had to after I put this book down. I enjoyed this book immensely. If I could have kept my eyes open, I would have finished this in one sitting. I'm so excited to find another author. This book is definitely worth the read. It has suspense and intrigue and many surprises. A great crime novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked the story line although minute descriptions and the over use of the word grinding as a thought process irked me (personal pet peeve). Otherwise highly recommend and looking forward to the rest of the series.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Interesting characters in this well written mystery.
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romancemistress More than 1 year ago
I now have a new mystery series with which to usher in my summer...and a new, tormented book-boyfriend in ex cop Max Freeman. Loved everything about this book, the flashbacks that come in Max's uneasy dreams, the atmospheric humidity of the 'Glades, his inability to let the abductions and deaths go unsolved despite his self-described lack of ambition, the secondary characters just as vividly drawn. I've already reserved books 2 and 3 at the library to keep me company over the weekend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Intereeting and fast paced. Held my interest.
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BETKAT More than 1 year ago
this author writes a wonderful story. Lucky for the readers he has 5 books with the lead character Max Freeman. This story is exciting and his vivid descriptions put you right in the scene of action. IT IS AN EXCELLENT READ AND WHEN FINISHED YOU CANNOT WAIT UNTIL YOU CAN READ THE SECOND, AND THE THIRD AND SO ON. While he is in the Everglades the descriptions of the trees, plants and animals are so vivid in your memory. I felt I was there nwith him. I this this,someitimes comical.
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