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Crooked Numbers (Raymond Donne) by Tim O'Mara
Cover Artist: Marc Yanus
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Minotaur Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781250009005
Date: 15 October 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Raymond Donne, a former cop, is the dean of a middle school in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He investigates the death of a former student, Dougie Lee, who was stabbed late at night on the tennis courts beneath Williamsburg Bridge. Ray learns that Dougie's closest friends at Upper West Academy, a private school in Manhattan, are experiencing tragedies that are either killing or hospitalizing them. He soon learns that Dougie's death is part of a conspiracy involving crooked businessmen, crooked parents, crooked children and crooked numbers.

Everyone's favorite teacher/sleuth from Sacrifice Fly has returned in Tim O'Mara's latest mystery, Crooked Numbers. This time, the reader learns that Ray has been promoted to dean. He is still getting physical therapy from Muscles because of the knee injury that forced him to quit the NYPD. He still pals with a computer geek, Edward, at his favorite cop bar, the LineUp. However, he develops a romantic relationship with a reporter, Allison Rogers, who is trying to help him solve Dougie's murder by keeping it fresh in the newspapers. He is also assisted by his powerful uncle, Chief Donne of the NYPD, and detective Dennis Murcer, a former enemy who is now his friend.

Raymond, we all know, is a great teacher who truly cares for his students, both current and former. He is also a very brave man who ventures alone into territories that I wouldn't go without a Marine escort. He confronts thugs, gangs and angry parents; several scenes made me nervous. Far from perfect, Raymond considers himself damaged goods. Still haunted by a past that physically scarred him, he remains a bitter agnostic.

The reader is introduced to diseases that often affect children such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Asperger's Syndrome. The novel sheds light on diseases that have nearly become epidemics in our schools, both public and private. Furthermore, children of all economic, social, and racial backgrounds share similar problems with drugs. Drugs are not a substitute for good parenting. Parenting, as we learn from the astute, caring Raymond Donne, is not just a noun. It is a verb. Perhaps we wouldn't have as many students with social and behavior disabilities if parents took the time to do more parenting. Children, like pets, need a lot of attention. Sometimes, I think parents give their pets more attention than they do their own children.

The setting for Crooked Numbers is a frigid November after Thanksgiving. It lends a gloomy atmosphere to the depressing pall that already surrounds a plot involving violence perpetrated by and against children. The mystery itself is topnotch and I never learned who killed Dougie Lee until nearly the very end. Neither did I have any clues as to the identity of the murderer. The mystery was a giant puzzle with pieces that neatly fell into place.

Would it be crooked for me to say that I found Crooked Numbers more enjoyable than O'Mara's debut, Sacrifice Fly? I hope and pray that in the real world there are teachers like Raymond Donne and that the author is working on another novel in this unique series.

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