Blood on the Pen

Blood on the Pen - David Huffstetler Every once in a while I think most prolific readers come across a book that is a diamond in the rough, “Blood On The Pen”, was such a read for me. David W. Huffstetler has crafted a gripping crime thriller that can only be described as a riveting roller coaster ride from it’s “okay, you’ve got my attention”, beginning, to the suspenseful “I’ve now chewed my nails to the quick”, conclusion. In the first paragraphs a graphic murder scene unfolds that is so grizzly there is no question that the perpetrator, who is introduced as Eddie is a human being without conscience.

Texas Ranger Jack Harden, gets the call to investigate the murder of book publisher Maxwell Thornton, which is just the beginning of what becomes a string of killings that escalate in brutality and cruelty. While Harden is certainly a hero who I would describe as a grieving, tortured soul with a death wish following the sudden loss of his beloved wife Jenny, he is also a tough, crusty, larger than life Texas Ranger who is committed to his job. Harden is an honorable man.

Enter Elsie Rodriguez an intrepid reporter from the San Antonio Post who wants to interview Harden regarding the circumstances surrounding Jenny’s death but quickly becomes immersed hip deep in the murder investigation. Elsie is determined to be first to break the story and to have her byline on the front page. She is fiercely competitive and while she develops a soft spot for Harden, is relentless in her quest to be successful. At first Harden wants nothing to do with the annoying reporter, later his superior leaves him no choice but to accept Elsie along for the duration of the investigation. What Harden doesn’t expect is that she also ingratiates herself into his life.

What impressed me most about this novel is that each scene along with the dialogue advances a plot that is so full of twists, turns and surprises that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The main plot certainly involves a manipulative, sociopathic serial killer, who seems to be one step ahead of investigators alluding them at every turn. There is however a subplot that reveals the tragic events surrounding the night Jenny died and how Jack gradually works through some of his grief and anger with Elsie's support.

Mr. Huffstetler developed a stellar cast of supporting characters who, no matter how small their role, all serve an important purpose in the storyline. While the tone of this novel is quite dark (it has a film noir feel) there is also some wonderful sarcastic wit that had me laughing out loud.

“You’re like an ingrown toenail, Elsie,” he replied. “Sometimes it can be painful, but it goes where your foot goes.”

Elsie smirked, not sure if she should laugh or be insulted. “Well, where are we going, Mr. Ranger?”

Blood On The Pen © David W. Huffstetler

The publisher describes this novel as a crime/mystery, with some light romance. I would agree, but Harden and Elsie’s romance is integral to the story, because while I think the challenge of tracking and stopping the serial killer gives Harden a reason to live, he also takes tiny steps to rejoin the living with Elsie's support and caring. And, for those of you who look for an HEA in your reading I will say “Blood On The Pen” doesn't disappoint.

If you enjoy a riveting crime thriller that doesn’t spare the graphic details in a series of bloody murders, and will leave you thinking long after you’ve turned the final pages, you may like to give “Blood On The Pen” a try. What does the title signify? Well, you'll have to read the book to find out. ;) I’m looking forward to reading more of Mr. Huffstetler’s work.

4.5 / 5 stars