4 star

Scent of Murder

By James O. Born

ISBN: 9780765378477

Author’s Website:

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie

(Discretion is suggested for young adult readers and those sensitive to reading sexual abuse or murder scenes.)


Two years after being tossed from the detective bureau for using questionable tactics while catching a child molester, Deputy Tim Hallett’s life is finally on track. Assigned to a special K-9 unit with the best partner in the world, a Belgian Malinois named Rocky, Hallett has finally learned to balance police work with his family life. But that all changes in the heat of a Florida sugarcane field.

While searching for a kidnapper, Rocky locks onto the scent of a predator unlike anyone has ever seen. Or have they? The more Hallett digs, the closer he comes to his old issues when the case that ended his career as a detective appears to be the key to a series of kidnappings.

When the trail turns to murder, Hallett risks everything to catch the killer, even if it means clearing the child molester who drove him to violence and ruined his career. Along the way, Hallett and his partners learn the true meaning of loyalty and courage as their canine companions take police work to a new level and show that instinct means more than training.

Scent of Murder is a gritty police thriller from veteran law enforcement agent and author James O. Born


Scent of Murder is a solid, well-written mystery in which the author shows the depth of character of the protagonists, the loyalty and dedication of Rocky, and the other K-9 officers, and the obsessed and depraved working of the murderer’s intentions. We also see the tender relationship between a law officer with his young son, Josh. I enjoyed this novel, in part because I have an ever-growing respect for the use of K-9 officers and for the overall plot.

Tim Hallett is an enigma, a man who rarely trusts others. It has taken many months for his connection with his K-9, a huge, furry Belgian Mallinois to develop, even though the well-trained yet loyal and playful young adult dog clearly was attached to Tim. One of the K-9’s absolute favorite times was when playing with Tim and Josh, and he would defend them at the risk of his own life, if need be. Tim and Rocky were paired up after he behaved in such a manner that damaged the conviction of a sexual predator that cost him his job as a detective.

A murderer was on the loose, someone who had begun as a sex offender, then began to kill the girls molested. Tim Hallett believed that the perpetrator was the man he had arrested, now out of prison early due to his emotion-driven mistake a couple years before. Tim is the leader of two officers with K-9 partners on his team, and they work together to try to catch the suspect before he re-offends.

Portions of the story are told from the murderer’s point of view. His (or her) point of view includes almost no personal information, simply the history and his (or her) view of the girls he (or she) has harmed in the past. We also see the horrifying moments when the murderer changes from the need to abuse to the need to abuse, then murder and hide the evidence.

Tim Hallett is a three-dimensional, well-developed character. The anonymous murderer, the other character that we read the most of, is developed only to the degree that we need to see him/her. We read of him/her mostly in first person, but we are limited until the story is nearly complete to learn anything else. Other characters are developed relative to their role and how much they are part of the story. Tim is very likable, as are Tim’s team members.

After a very interesting opening scene, there were times that the story seemed slow, but those times were well-used to build the plot and help the reader understand good law enforcement work. Scent of Murder is not, for the most part, a book that is fraught with suspense building with every page, but there are many scenes that are hard to close the pages on. By midway into the mystery, the sense of urgency builds to a crescendo that is absolutely unanticipated based on the information learned throughout the investigation.

One of the strengths of the book is a brief history of K-9’s, including their use in military and law enforcement. Understanding the training and the bond developed with the human partner through the course of training brings to life the value of the K-9 and how it is a highly-trained officer with amazing abilities. While no one dog could be trained to do everything, most are able to give chase and catch bad guys and protect their human partner.

Another strength of Scent of Murder is how the author demonstrates relationships between characters through conversations, thoughts, and actions. The conversations sound genuine, whether positive or combative, and the actions and reactions also sound, overall, genuine.

Just when this reader was convinced that the police are closing in and almost ready to make the arrest, the ultimate U-turn is made in the plot; police just might not be able to get the bad guy on time before he or she strikes again. I highly recommend this novel to adults of any age who appreciate police procedurals, suspense, and mysteries that include K-9 partners. The way the investigation is thoroughly completed is impressive, and shows the excellence of those wearing the badge and the tightrope they must walk to ascertain that the right person is captured the right way to ensure an airtight case. I closed the novel with a renewed respect for those who choose these jobs because they want to see justice done.