Cover image of "The Second Girl," a novel about drug traffickers

Frankie Marr is not a good guy. After seventeen years on the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police, he was forced to retire when the brass discovered he had been helping himself to the drugs recovered in narcotics busts. Now, he works as a private eye to supplement his meager police pension. To feed his habit, he breaks into drug dealers’ stash houses to steal cocaine, marijuana, and prescription painkillers. So, who better to track down a gang of drug traffickers?

Frankie persuades himself that he has everything under control because he resists using crack cocaine. “Cocaine is a monster,” he says, “but crack is the devil. You can keep the monster in a closet, but not the f**ing devil.” Somehow, he has managed to hide all this not just from the drug dealers and the detectives he used to work with but also from the plaintiff’s attorney who hires him from time to time.

David Swinson‘s engaging detective novel, The Second Girl, opens as Frankie has just crashed his way into another stash house. In a futile search for drugs, he tears the place apart. Then he discovers a padlocked door that seems promising. Breaking it down, he finds a naked teenage girl trussed up on the floor. She has several track marks in her arm and has clearly been drugged. He frees her but has no explanation for being in the house. So, instead of taking her to a hospital or turning her over to the police, he drops her at the office of the attorney he works with.

The Second Girl by David Swinson ★★★★☆

Eventually, the girl is returned to her grateful parents in suburban Virginia. Frankie comes across as a hero. When neighbors of the girl’s parents learn the story, they insist on hiring him to search for their own missing sixteen-year-old daughter. Miriam Gregory is the “second girl” of the title. Frankie’s investigation into her disappearance takes him to the heart of the drug and prostitution rackets in DC. The course of his investigation is violent — and not all the violence is the work of drug dealers and pimps. Frankie proves himself to be little better than they are.

This is an unorthodox work of detective fiction. It’s only the author’s second novel and shows promise of better to come.

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