Book Review | Second Cousin Once Removed by Kenneth L. Toppell

It is surprising what a can of worms Henry opens when he tries to fill out his family tree in Second Cousin Once Removed by Kenneth Toppell. As the story opens, Henry discovers he is cousins with a gun for hire, and when people start dying gruesome deaths around him, Henry and Carolyn feel they need to run for their lives. When you begin the book, you enter a world reminiscent of those stories told by Dashiell Hammet – a world where women are dames, emotions are black and white, and life is brutal, dark, and gritty. Usually, this technique can be found in hard-boiled mysteries, but in this story, the main character is a lawyer specializing in titles and work such as that, rather than a “private dick.” And that is just the beginning of the twists and turns that will leave you gasping in its wake as this story unfolds. I’m not personally fond of this type of hard-boiled mystery, the writing style is not my cup of tea, but I must say, I was intrigued by the tale and awed by the switches in direction. It is told in the first person and has three different narrators – Henry, Carolyn, and Shelley (the murderer) distinguished by their entitled chapters, which offered a unique insight into the plot as it developed. If you love hard-boiled mysteries and feel the grittier, the better, this story may be the perfect choice for your next read.

Thank you to The Write Reads for my spot on this blog tour.

About the Book

Henry Attkinson’s life as an attorney is slow, predictable, and lonely, given his divorce and his ex-wife’s custody of the kids. He recently took up geneology as a hobby to fill the time, but it doesn’t do much to spice up his mundane routine.
Until the day he prods at a dead end of one of the branches of his family tree. Who is this cousin Shelley, whom he’s never met or even heard of in years? Ignoring a warning to leave well enough alone, Henry still doesn’t find much in his deeper delve into the mystery—just a concerning criminal record for the man that finally convinces him to drop the matter. But Shelley is a man who doesn’t want to be found or even looked for. And now he knows someone has been looking.
Faster than he knows what’s hit him, Henry is propelled into sudden mayhem, receiving ominous threats, meeting mysterious strangers, and running for his life. Second Cousin Once Removed is a fast-paced, sweaty-palm thriller that will keep you hooked until the last page.

About the Author

Ken Toppell wanted to write when he went to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He was there during a tumultuous time- the start of the sit-in campaigns, the onset of the civil rights movement. He graduated with a degree in history and political science before he went on to Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, postgraduate training in Houston, Texas, and to the army.  Over the next 48 years, Toppell did his writing on medical wards and in intensive care units. As a surgeon, Toppell saw organ transplants go from rare procedures only done by celebrity doctors to a new surgical specialty. Passionate physicians implemented new forms of medical research and brought HIV/AIDS from an epidemic with a 100 percent mortality rate to an outpatient disease. There were new tools and new drugs, and Toppell learned why medicine is called a practice. As the years passed by, Toppell  began to give lectures in American history, and he had some time to do a new kind of writing. He now  lives in Plano, Texas, where he reads, writes, and enjoys life with his wife of 53 years.

9 Replies to “Book Review | Second Cousin Once Removed by Kenneth L. Toppell”

    1. It is a very intriguing concept. I just wish I appreciated that Hammett style of writing more because I do enjoy crazy plots ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Sometimes (not often, but sometimes) I like that nostalgic hard-boiled take on crime fiction. It’s almost campy (if you read it with that “tone” in mind).

    Liked by 1 person

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