Lowertown, by Richard A. ThompsonLowertown
A Herman Jackson Mystery
Trade Paperback, 225 pages
40 Press
ISBN-10: 1938473094
ISBN-13: 978-1938473098

Herman Jackson is a former bookie and small-time racketeer from Detroit who is trying to live down his shady past by running a legitimate bail bond business in St. Paul. But not all his problems are in his past.  It is January, and definitely the winter of his discontent.  Somebody has used his name and license, without his consent or even knowledge, to bail out a vicious killer named Ray Valento, who immediately disappears. 

Pursuing the fleeing felon earns Jackson a concussion that leaves him with recurring blackouts.  While he is in the hospital, Trish Hanover, the public defender who represented Valento, vanishes, and an unknown woman lies brutally murdered in Hanover's Lowertown condo.  Could the killer have been after his own lawyer?  And did she run, or was she taken?  The St. Paul PD detective assigned to the case, Lt. Armstrong, seems much more interested in pinning the murder on Jackson than he is in finding either missing person.  And Jackson needs them found, badly.  If he doesn't find Valento, he will be out an amount of money he can ill afford, even though he didn't really write the bail bond.  And if he doesn't find Hanover, there will be no living with his trusted bounty hunter and friend, Wide Track Wilkie, who is also her lover. 

The only solid lead Jackson and Wilkie have is a laptop computer they find in Valento's apartment, containing details of vicious crimes, past and future.  It also shows that Valento does not act alone but is part of a major interstate human trafficking operation.

The murdered woman in Hanover's condo turns out to be originally from Valento's hometown, Bayfield, Wisconsin, so Jackson goes there to look for answers and people.  The dead woman's parents turn out to be instant allies, and he needs them sooner than he could have expected, as the trafficking ring is still fully functional, and they do not want him nosing around.  They set a deadly trap for him on the frozen waters of Lake Superior, from which he barely escapes with the help of his new friends.

The trail leads back to the Twin Cities, to an abandoned salt storage warehouse that is now used as a staging area for flying kidnapped women out of the St. Paul airport.  Jackson and a hastily assembled, ragged swat team made up of his former clients storm the place and liberate the captive women, including Trish Hanover.  But Valento and Detective Armstrong, who is in league with the traffickers, escape. 

Once again the trail goes to northern Wisconsin, this time into the teeth of a furious blizzard, a midnight chase on snowmobiles, and finally a bloody showdown in a snowbound cabin in the deep woods.  The cost is high, but justice is finally served, and Jackson hopes he can stop looking over his shoulder for good.

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What They're Saying

Mary Ann Grossmann of the St. Paul Pioneer Press calls it an "involving and smoothly written mystery (with a) perfect sense of place."

Multiple award-winning, best selling author David Housewright, says "Lowertown, Richard A. Thompson's third novel about a bail bondsman who makes a bad choice and lives (barely) to regret it, has smart characters, riveting action and an authentic noir-ish tone that would fit in nicely with the work of Black Mask writers like Hammet, Chandler, Gardner, Daly, and Cain."

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