Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
This debut novel certainly has an engaging premise. Peter Brown is a medical intern working in the emergency room of a New York City hospital. He’s also a man with secrets. Deadly ones. Which is why he’s currently in the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program.
Brown’s history is revealed in flashbacks over the course of the narrative, exposed like a congealed wound being stripped of its dressing. It seems that Bazell’s protagonist used to be a hit man, Pietro “The Bearclaw” Brnwa. He got into the murder-for-hire business as a teenager, after his own family was killed by mooks who were trying to get a leg up in organized crime. After exacting revenge on his family’s slayers--thanks to some assistance from a mob attorney whose son, affectionately referred to as “Skinflick,” Peter had gotten to know--our “hero” wins jobs working with the bent-nose set in New Jersey. Finally, though, he decides to get out of the biz and acquire a new identity, under which he begins training for a medical career on the opposite side of the Hudson River. However, one night Brown runs into a dying mobster at the hospital, who recognizes him. Not unexpectedly, this leads to trouble. Lots of it.
Hip, violent, and funny, Beat the Reaper is a very engaging and furiously fast read. It has an interesting view on life and death, and is not merely frothy entertainment. It has heart.