BIG SICK HEART by Mike Markel

big sick heartThis is the first in the Detectives Seagate and Miner mystery police procedural series.

Let me tell you right off, you are not going to like Detective Karen Seagate all that much.  She is a drunk   has a drinking problem.  It is told in the first person voice of Seagate, and I really like the way the author eases into letting us know that fact.  First, we learn she is divorced, that her husband left her, and then somehow, possibly unfairly, got custody of their teenage son.   So she is alone, and drinks every night after shift. Oh, yeah, and in her sorrow, had a one night stand with a fellow officer.   But little by little, as the book goes on, we start to understand that the reason the husband was emotionally unavailable and then physically absent all the time was because she had had this drinking problem long before he left.  And it was why he left.  After her indiscretion with the coworker, she is put on night shift, and that is when the husband goes to court for custody.

She has a new partner, a young man, a Mormon, who is strong in his faith and convictions, but not obnoxious.  Clever guy, and a great foil for Karen.

Their first case arises from a security detail they are on, to keep things cool at a campus debate on stem cell research conducted by a traveling debating team.  After accompanying the two to a pub after the debate, they see them safely to their hotel rooms.  Early the next morning they are called back to the hotel.  The stem cell research proponent is found dead in his bed. He is the corrupt leader of Soul Savers organization, and there are plenty of suspects.  His wife to whom he has been serially unfaithful, his young female assistant, the original founder of the organization whom he managed to edge out, his debate partner, and a politician he was blackmailing.

The mystery — the case — is interesting, but really, this is more of a literary fiction piece about the damaged lady cop, how she is systematically sabotaging her life, and the arrow-straight partner and their relationship, all wrapped around the underpinnings of a mystery.  Things really fall apart for Detective Seagate when she finds out via an email that her son is in serious trouble in school, so having been drinking, she wildly overreacts and jumps in her car to go confront the ex about this.  That, as can be expected, does not go well, and on her way home, she swerves into the oncoming lane and T-bones a car, and one of the children in the car suffers severe head injury and it is touch and go if she will live.  Seagate cajoles a fellow officer to hold off on the breathalizer for a couple of hours so she will not test over the limit.

Her chief doesn’t like her.  I wonder why?  A hung-over screw-up, messing up his last year before retirement?  What’s not to like?   He allows her to finish up the case and then fires her.

Let’s see.  Any good quotes for you?  OK, here’s one.  They get the hotel manager out of bed at the crack of O-dark thirty, and he shows up

wearing a fresh flower in his lapel.  Apparently, he was the kind of hotel manager who gets a call there’s been a death in his hotel and thinks, this outfit could really use a boutonniere.

The title is from the coroner’s statement of the cause of death of the obese victim with the grossly enlarged heart.

“Dilated cardiomyopathy.”   “English?”  “Big sick heart.”

Lots of information given us about stem cell research,  telling us via one of the character’s:

It’s the highest-level research going on in the world:  it’s neurology, molecular biology, chemistry, even physics, all rolled up into the most complicated mystery we’ve ever tried to unravel.  If we can figure out how to deliver the GDNF, glial derived neurotropic factor, the right way, and get it to integrate successfully, that could be the key to beating Parkinson’s, MS, Lou Gehrig’s, Alzheimer’s, meningitis, and severed spinal cords.

So, yeah, loved the book.   It certainly ain’t your mother’s Agatha Christie.

stem cells



9 comments on “BIG SICK HEART by Mike Markel

  1. I read Big Sick Heart a while ago and loved it.
    Glad we agree on this one.

  2. Jackie Weger says:

    Ditto, what Kerry said.

  3. Julie Frayn says:

    I’ll third that comment!

  4. Mike Markel says:

    Thank you very much for the generous review, Marti! I do appreciate your kind words. For a writer, it’s very gratifying when skilled readers get what you’re trying to do.

  5. Donna Fasano says:

    Loved the review!

  6. Fab review. Sounds a really interesting read. Thanks

  7. […] the one where Detective Karen Seagate is a drunk recovering alcoholic.    You may remember from Big Sick Heart that our girl got herself in some hot water and got fired.  Well, the Chief retired, a new guy is […]

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