Review: Zafiro is Back with a Fourth River City Novel

It’s 1998 and the Russian mob claims parts of River City. The only person connecting the patterns of escalating violence and a new ruthlessness of crimes is a female analyst. She tries valiantly to convince the new Chief of Police to pay attention and mobilize resources before this new organized crime group establishes a stronghold, or worse, there’s a turf war between the Russians and the already established gangs of the city.

In And Every Man Has to Die, the officers and detectives of the city’s police department struggle to keep the streets safe while trying to tame this new underworld of criminals. Old friends from the earlier novels and short stories grace the pages: MacLeod, Battaglia, O’Sullivan, Chisholm, and Browning, but there is also a new cast of characters who complicates work and personal relationships within the department.

This book is the darkest of the series. Partly because of the fantastic and fanatical villain Zafiro created in Valeriy Romanov, the Russian mob boss. The sections of the book told from his point of are scary in that I completely believe his justification for why he has to do the terribly things he does—all while being horrified by his twisted and psychotic mind.

Contributing to the bleakness of the book is Zafiro’s ability to show the emotional and physical drain on the police men and women caused by the senseless violence.  The elements that make each River City book so good are here–short vignettes of scenes that speed up the plot, witty and gritty dialogue, three-dimensional and interesting characters—but throughout the book there is an undertone of despair. I can feel how tired and run down the characters are and how hopeless they at times find their situations.

As with many police procedurals, the plot is complicated by the power plays within the department and between city police and federal law enforcement. Zafiro adds a twist though. He has three strong female characters who add their own quiet reflections and commentary on the men’s pissing contests. Each one of these women has a unique way of coping with working in such a testosterone loaded environment, sometimes with devastating consequences. The respected experienced officer Katie MacLeod deals with injuries and desk duty, rookie BJ Carson desperately tries to prove her worth to herself and fellow officers, and smart capable analyst Renee watches the male power plays until someone has to step in and actually get things done. How these women interact and relate to each other adds layers to the novel, but also comments on how women (and men) often play a society-imposed role that is hard to break out of.

I’ve always been amazed over how well Zafiro handles the female perspective in the past books–mostly through MacLeod’s point of view– and in And Every Man Has to Die he proves that strong believable characters is definitely his forte, no matter which gender they are.

If you like well written, fast paced novel with great characters, then the River City series is definitely for you. I recommend reading them in order because each one adds new depths to the reoccurring characters, but you’ll enjoy the stories as stand alone books as well. If you are familiar with Spokane, you’ll recognize landmarks and streets as the police cars zip through the city. River City is a fictional version of our fair city.

Once you finish the four novels, your withdrawal symptoms can be alleviated through Zafiro’s three anthologies of River City short stories: Dead Even, The Cleaner, No Good Deed. No fifth book of the series is scheduled yet, but Stefan Kopriva, an early River City series character, stars as the main attraction in Waist Deep, which will be released later this year.



  • Frank says:

    Thank you for such an insightful review, Asa!

    There is a fifth book planned (actually, I’ve started it and have the basic plot mapped out), tentatively titled “Place of Wrath and Tears.”

    Also, the forthcoming Kopriva novel, “Waist Deep,” will have at least one sequel (I’m part way through writing it) called “Lovely, Dark and Deep.”

    Again, it is pleasing to hear from a woman that the females in the book are compelling characters. They are to me, but that doesn’t always translate to the page…or at least, the author always wonders if it did or not.

  • Great review, Asa! I really want to read Frank’s series. My husband finished his Valentine’s Day present about the guy who plays hockey in Spokane. He really enjoyed it, even though there wasn’t a dwarf or orc in sight. LOL He’s now passed it on to our daughter, who absolutely loves hockey.

    Sounds like your cop series is a winner, Frank. :) I love your titles.

  • Virginia says:

    I bought a couple of Frank’s books and read them so fast I practically inhaled them. I’m looking forward to another one. Both books kept me on edge and worried, which was exhausting, in a good way :)

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