Shattered Peace Review

The quiet community of Russell Island has suddenly captured the attention of the entire world. On this small island in Chesapeake Bay, Kiril Varga, Deputy Prime Minister of Balkania, has been found dead. After examining the body, the island’s one man police department, detective Starrett Knight, discovers that the victim was executed mobster-style — with a bullet to the back of his head; a discovery that will not only interrupt the Balkanian peace talks occurring in neighboring Oxford, Maryland, but one that will also disrupt the peace of the residents living in the region. In Joseph Keough’s murder mystery Shattered Peace Russell Island becomes a point of convergence: as the press, New York City police detectives, and FBI agents all descend upon the previously tranquil hamlet to solve this international case.

Russell Island is a place of retreat for Starrett Knight. Following the death of his wife and child, the detective escaped to this idyllic island to recover from his personal loss. After several years on the island, he managed to slowly recoup from the death of his loved ones; gaining strength from close friends and the serene landscape and living conditions he found in the new location. However, in the opening pages of the novel we see that Starrett (nicknamed “Star”) is still in a real sense stuck — bound by grief and unable to move on with his life. Ironically, it takes the tragic death of a stranger to free his mind from morbid rumination upon his own tragic circumstances.

Early in the investigation a piece of information surfaces that makes this particular case very personal for Star: his friend, Ellen Mannery, an artist, resident of Russell Island, and wife of his best friend Steve Mannery, is suspected of being involved in the killing of the deceased diplomat. Several years before the murder, while she and her husband were separated, she had an affair with Kiril Varga. And although she and Varga were no longer seeing each other, the fact that his body was found on the remote island implicates her in the crime. Consequently, Star, convinced of Ellen’s innocence, approaches the investigation in attack mode, vigorously working to prove that she is being framed for the murder; while desperately seeking to uncover evidence pointing to the real perpetrators of the crime.

Although ostensibly a story about solving a murder, the real plot of Shattered Peace revolves around the dynamic and grief-stricken protagonist, Star Knight. The pressing necessity of proving Ellen’s innocence reinvigorates a mind that has perhaps grown slightly dull, or at best bored, due to the complete lack of crime on Russell Island. With his investigative skills resurging with a vengeance — as Star uncovers hidden clues and makes connections that impress (and at times astonish) New York’s finest and the FBI agents assigned to the case — he also discovers that he still possesses other life instincts that had been lying dormant in his body and being since the death of his wife.

The romantic relationship that develops between Star and Stephanie Dolan, the smart and stunning Maryland newscaster covering the case, enlivens Knight’s erotic impulses; and amplifies the entertainment value of the story underway. In addition, the emerging friendship between Star and the like-minded New York City detective, Frank Petracci, provides the narrative with another engaging element. The witty banter between the detectives, the titillating romance between Star and Stephanie, and the incredible way in which Star and the investigative team piece together the clues of the case, make Shattered Peace an intellectually stimulating and emotionally thrilling book. In particular, witnessing the beleaguered Star rise from his shell of suffering proves extremely edifying and cathartic.