T.E. Woods – The Red Hot Fix

tewoods-theredhotfixA little more than a year after the Fixer killings, Detective Mort Grant of the Seattle P.D. once again has his hands full. In the last four months, seven men have been murdered in seedy pay-by-the-hour motels: first strangled, then tied with rope and set on a bed of crushed mothballs, with a red lipstick kiss planted on their foreheads. Speculation abounds that the killer is a prostitute who’s turning her tricks into dead men. The press has taken to calling her “Trixie.”

As Mort follows scant leads in the case, he can’t help but feel continued guilt over his involvement with the Fixer. Though the public holds her up as a folk hero, a vigilante who seeks justice when the system fails, Mort cannot shake the fact that serious crimes have been committed. And though legend says she has vanished, Mort knows exactly where the Fixer is—and he’s conspiring to keep her hidden.

As Trixie strikes again, Mort suddenly finds himself and his family in the crosshairs. Because these new murders are not random, and their perpetrator is hell-bent on luring Mort into a sick and twisted game. If he’s not careful, he’s going to need Fixing.

Earlier this year I reviewed T.E. Woods’ debut novel, The Fixer, and really enjoyed it for both its cleverly structured plot and its characters. After reviewing it I learned that book two was already slated for release on June 10th, so I hurried over to Netgalley and was stoked to be approved for an ARC of the second book, The Red Hot Fix. Having read it in a single night I can happily report that the sequel is even better than its predecessor. The problems I had with the first book didn’t return in this one or where explained and I had some of the questions I was left with after finishing The Fixer answered. 

If there is one thing that is important in a good crime series it’s the characters. While it’s of course important that the crime is well-plotted and interesting, for a series you need more than just an interesting murder, you need characters to love—characters to come back to and find out what happens to them next. And it is in the creating of a compelling main character surrounded by a wonderful team that Woods excels. Yes, the crime in The Red Hot Fix was wonderfully constructed as well – more on that later – but for me these books are all about Mort and associates. Mort is such a great, well-balanced character and while he has his crosses to bear, they don’t define him. Where in the previous book Mort is still obviously grieving the loss of his wife, he’s also coping and in this book he’s even ready to consider the possibility of moving on with someone new. Woods handles this beautifully and I can’t wait to see how this storyline will develop in the future.

The set up in The Red Hot Fix is a little different from that of The Fixer, as we get a number of extra points of views in addition to Mort and Lydia. Not only do we see snippets from Trixie, but we also have a story arc with several points of views dedicated to the Stinson-Vogel clan, their basketball team and other shenanigans. It confused me at first as I didn’t know how this fit into the story, but once this got tied into the Trixie case, it tied in beautifully and I liked the way it was resolved. The one point of view that was a bit of an odd fit was Lydia’s, though I loved her story line and her friendship with Mort. The way she befriends little Maizie and gains her trust was lovely, especially as it resonates with much of Lydia’s past. I also liked that Woods lets us see Lydia’s struggle in trying to disentangle herself from her Fixer persona, all the more stronger when she’s faced with a situation that truly needs Fixing to save this precious little girl. This might also be the best point to mention that there are some possible triggers in the form of sexual violence, rape, and child abuse, make of that what you will. Lydia’s eventual solution to the situation was amazing and it’ll be interesting to see how Woods will develop Lydia’s character, because she might become a modern caped crusader!

My niggles from the last time were solved. We finally get an explanation for everyone’s unquestioning acceptance of Bruiser’s ubiquitous presence and it’s heart-breaking. It also gave me a new appreciation for Jimmy De Villa, whose character is deepened quite a lot in this book. Woods also toned down his advances on Micki Petty and has her push back when he goes too far, which I appreciated a lot, because I found the dynamic between them quite troubling in the previous book. Woods also reveals more about Mort’s missing daughter and what happened with her and I hope she’ll be even more present in future books.

The Red Hot Fix was a great second outing for Mort Grant and friends. Even if you’ve not read the previous book, the crime side of the book works really well as a standalone, from a character perspective however, I’d say this is certainly a book that should be read in sequence to be completely satisfying. I had a great time with The Red Hot Fix and I hope the next book will be announced soon. For readers who love well-plotted, character-driven crime the Justice novels are definitely worth checking out.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.