End of the Line Review
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When former bank manager R. J. Butler is found murdered in the back of a bus, Jerome “Stan” Stankowski of the Special Investigations Unit of the state police is called in to investigate. Note the words “former banker,” as Butler was fired for possible embezzlement of a state bank; hence the interest of the state authorities. This crime demands so much attention that the state’s attorney general’s office orders that their veteran deputy, Parker Noble, assist on the case.

Though not quite thirty years of age, Stan feels that he can handle the case himself. He doesn’t need the extra help—especially from Noble. In fact, due to prior experience, he regards working with the eccentric and irritating Noble as “cruel and unusual punishment.” He already has enough to do in trying to find busy work for his persistent “girlfriend” Buffy, an aspiring news reporter who’s trying to find the case that will give her credibility—like this one.

Stan isn’t sure who would want an embezzler dead, unless Butler actually took a fall. Or maybe the murder has nothing to do with the embezzlement. There are plenty of suspects who could possibly want Butler dead, including his drug-addicted widow and her rehab counselor boyfriend—not to mention his ex-wife, whose fiancé is connected to the mob.

When I started reading End of the Line, I figured that the story would follow the same old plot of pairing two unwilling law enforcement officers with opposite personalities together to solve a crime. They get on each other’s nerves, but they manage to find the killer in spite of themselves, so they wind up being friends—and everyone lives happily ever after. But I soon learned that this would be different.

The story is told from Stan’s perspective—and he never quite warms up to Parker and his buddies. In fact, the characters are as much of the story as the plot is. As Manno introduces readers to the characters and their flaws, he gives them more depth than the characters typically found in a mystery. For instance, Stan has a few love interests, but he isn’t trying to play Buffy. He simply isn’t sure how he really feels about her. Manno also manages to include a host of interesting side characters, which add fun to the read without confusing the plot or weighing it down.

End of the Line is an entertaining thriller with fast-paced action and quirky characters that will have you turning pages in anticipation of the next event. I like these guys—and I hope to see more of Stan, Parker, and even Buffy in the future.

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