Over the years, many crime fiction works have been inspired by the case of James Patrick Bulger – the British two-year-old who was brutally tortured and killed by two ten-year-old boys in the early 1990’s. Authors such as Laura Lippman (with Every Secret Thing), Alex Marwood (with The Wicked Girls, Denise Mina (with Field of Blood) and Stuart Neville (with Those We Left Behind) have used the horrific case as inspiration for their novels. Readers can now add Trace Conger to that list.

Trace Conger is the Shamus-Award winning author of the Mr. Finn novels. Recently the third book in that series – The Prison Guard’s Son – was released and fans of PI novels are sure to enjoy it. Like the other novels mentioned, this one is not a re-telling of the Bulger case, but simply uses elements of it to launch into a wholly fictional story.

In the case of The Prison Guard’s Son, Finn Harding is approached by the father of a young boy who was killed thirty years earlier. Knowing that the two perpetrators have now been released from prison and placed in the witness protection program, this father wants to know where they are. Finn knows that nothing good can come from that knowledge, but also is not one to turn down a paying job.

What follows is a novel that exposes readers to the techniques private investigators use in order to find those who don’t want to be found. Trace Conger crafts a realistic investigation – with all the false starts and missteps one would expect. Coming in at just over 200 pages, The Prison Guard’s Son has not a wasted word within.

There are no easy answers in cases that are as complex as the one Finn has taken on in this novel. Trace Conger never sugar-coats things and also presents the moral ambiguity of many characters involved. He shows that there is evil in the world, but also that sometimes what feels like the “right” thing is really just the “easy” thing.

It will be interesting to see what case Mr. Finn takes on next, as he will clearly be affected by the turn of events at the conclusion of The Prison Guard’s Son. Readers – who will also have been affected – are sure to be waiting to see where Trace Conger and Mr. Finn go next.


Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the author. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.