The Sean O’Conner & Cindy Matasar Boxer Series Mysteries
by Deni Starr
All Rights Reserved
Below the Belt
This is the first novel in the series and introduces the two co-protagonists: Sean O’Conner retired boxer and Cindy Matasar, a criminal investigator with the public defender’s office who also free-lances for the private bar. Sean is asked to look into a new boxing gym in Portland that his friend, Maybelle Preacher, has doubts about after her grandson joins it. Sean agrees to do so and asks Cindy for technical assistance in the area of investigation. They team up to expose the gym as part of a fraudulent social service program for early released convicted felons and solve several murders in the process while becoming good friends.
Cindy is assigned as the investigator to what would appear to be an open and shut case of wife-beater killing his wife, but she and the public defender lawyer assigned to it, Janet Bowers, find odd facts that point to their client being framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Since their client is a retired professional boxer, they ask Sean to look into his past to see if there is anything in it which would point to someone with a motive for framing their client for murder.
Throwing in the Towel
Sean is asked by a boxing trainer to find out why a promising teenage boxer has suddenly become morose and depressed. Before Sean gets around to doing so, the young man is found dead; an apparent suicide after having jumped off a building. Motivated by guilt, Sean convinces Cindy to leave the public defender’s office and join him in a private investigation agency with the death of Damiyun Walker as their first case. Cindy and Sean become both business partners and lovers.
They discover that Damiyun had found out that a thirteen year old Vietnamese girl was being used as a sex slave by a local gang and he was killed when he tried to rescue her. The homicide detective looking into these two deaths also ends up dead under circumstances which indicate someone in law enforcement is behind running the sex slavery of Vietnamese girls in Portland.
Sean, a Vietnam vet, has to connect with his past contacts in the Marine Corps to find out who in Portland has the connections in Vietnam to get these girls past ICE enforcement, and ends up in a show-down with the ringleader.
Saved by the Bell
Sean’s impression of their potential client is that he is a brat only child of an overly protective mother, both given to exaggeration and hyperbole. The young man in question had been fired from his job a night janitor with a cleaning firm and after insisting on talking to his manager about it, ends up facing criminal charges for making threats. His mother wants Sean and Cindy to check with some witnesses that her son had not acted the way his ex-employer had described, and they were just out to get him because they were all a bunch of Nazis.
Sean isn’t very enthusiastic about the case, but its work, business is slow, and the young man is a promising young boxer. Plus, Sean has to admit, the young man’s employers did seem to have over-reacted a lot. Then over-night, literally, the case becomes far more serious after the manager is found murdered and their client is the prime suspect.
Cindy convinces their client’s court-appointed lawyer to keep them on as the investigators for the case, as she and Sean look for evidence that someone besides their client was involved in the killing. Then abruptly, she and Sean get fired and it takes a while to discover that the lawyer’s paralegal had seen Cindy as a rival with the lawyer for his affections and so sabotaged their work. While Cindy is trying to get them back on the case, Sean notices that an oddly large number of businesses located in the building where this janitor firm cleans have gone out of business or had some catastrophic disaster, all related to someone getting inside information on the business and exploiting it. Could the “someone” in question be working for the janitorial firm?
Then they find out that their client’s mother wasn’t kidding when she said the family running the company were a bunch of Nazis. The ancient patriarch of the family, as it turns out, was a member of the Hungarian Arrow Cross Party. He was a ruthless killer with no scruples, but that doesn’t explain who murdered his grandson.
Sean and Cindy have to put the clues together to catch the killer before their client’s inept arrogant lawyer and his paramour paralegal botch the case entirely and send a young man to prison for life.
Down For The Count
It seems to Sean that he can’t open a newspaper without seeing another article about a lawsuit against the Catholic Church for protecting child abusers. As a devout Catholic, the subject upsets him, and he would prefer to simply not have to deal with it. That is not an option after Sean’s eldest brother, Father John, asks for Sean’s help in Seattle. A number of priests are accused of sexually abusing children in a class action lawsuit including Father John’s mentor and boxing coach, a priest now in his seventies.
Sean and Cindy agree to get involved, and the more they learn about the suit, the more they believe they are on the wrong side. When the priest kills himself, it seems to be as good as a confession. They would have backed out, but then Cindy picks up on a clue that indicates it wasn’t suicide, but murder. When they go to confront the young man who had made the initial accusation, they find he, too has been murdered, and now the only clue they have is a land deed from 1887.
Standing Eight Count
Sean had only been married for two weeks when his second wife was killed in a convenience store hold-up. Or that’s what he had been told by the police. Now, decades later, an ex-con has tracked Sean down to tell him that the robbery had been a fake, it was a paid hit on a man who was not going along with local police corruption, and Sean’s wife had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Stunned, Sean heads back to Philadelphia to check on the man’s story. He finds plenty of evidence of police corruption during that time period, but nothing that would tie it in to his wife’s murder. Until someone tries to kill him. Taking a second look, he realizes very few of the corrupt police officers were ever charged with crimes, and certainly some managed to stay hidden and work their way up into the law enforcement hierarchy. He has apparently stepped on some very well placed toes and is dealing with someone, or several people who have considerable resources at their disposal for getting rid of threats to their power.
Feeling more than just outmatched, Sean heads back home, not seeing any point in dying to solve a personal tragedy he had mostly gotten over, particularly since bringing home that murder to anyone seems totally out of the question. But, after regaining his sense of outrage, and Cindy head back East to find justice for the victims of this police corruption, and have to rely on ex-cons and street people, and one very drunken attorney to help them do it.