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Originally published Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 5:52 AM

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Maturity and experience trump youth in debut mystery novel

In Becky Masterman’s debut novel “Rage Against the Dying,” a retired FBI agent, newly and happily married, is pulled reluctantly back into a case she couldn’t solve years ago.

Sun Sentinel

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‘Rage Against the Dying’

by Becky Masterman

Minotaur, 320 pp., $24.99

Our youth-oriented society also applies to mystery fiction in which, with a few exceptions, the average age of most detectives barely reaches 40.

Becky Masterman’s “Rage Against the Dying” would be an astounding debut based on the solid plot, the intriguing characters and the pulse-racing, pervasive sense of danger that permeate the story. But Masterman further elevates her first novel by making her heroine Brigid Quinn, a 59-year-old retired FBI agent who put her work above her personal life. Then she became the scapegoat of office politics and bad press after she shot a serial killer who, for that one moment, happened to be unarmed. “Rage Against the Dying” works well as an intense police procedural, a testament in favor of older workers and a tale about learning the true meaning of unconditional love.

Brigid’s 40 years of vigorous training, of hunting serial killers and of knowing first-hand the effects of violence haven’t made her an ideal retiree. But this newlywed has found happiness with her husband, Carlo DiForenza, a widowed former philosophy professor and ex-priest.

Yet Brigid has revealed little about her past life. She is convinced that if Carlo knew the depravity she had seen as an FBI agent and the violent choices she had to make that he “couldn’t live knowing what I was capable of.”

Brigid is pulled back into her old life when the FBI arrests a trucker who claims to be the Route 66 killer. Brigid was never able to close that case. But the trucker’s confession doesn’t seem real. Brigid’s tactics may have made her supervisors uneasy, but her former FBI colleagues respect her and need her help.

Masterman carefully balances Brigid’s lurid past with her carefully constructed new life. And she expertly explores how this newlywed, who has closed the door on her emotions, can learn to trust and love another.

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