High Rise by Lynn Underwood

High Rise (High Tide Publications, 133 pp. $13.99, paper) is a short novel dealing with a mysterious death at a construction site and the investigations that follows. Interestingly, we read on the first page that there is foul play and we also know who is responsible for it. So Lynn Underwood centers his tory on attempts to bring the perpetrator to justice.

Underwood is a Vietnam War veteran who served with the First Marine Division as a radio operator and forward observer. High Rise is his second novel, following The First Stone, and it comes out of decades of experience Underwood has as a building inspector.

The story begins with a building inspector falling to his death from a scaffold on the 23rd floor of a proposed 38-story high-rise project in Norfolk, Virginia. We know from the back cover that he was pushed by the building engineer, Lawrence Newton. The inspector had been accepting bribes from Newton for signing-off on questionable cost-cutting measures during construction. The builders are hoping to shave $10 million off the cost. Apparently, the dead man asked for money once too often.

The construction company had never had an on-site fatality in its forty-year history. Officials want to clear the company’s name while the city mounts an investigation.

We end up dealing with a “shadow government,” secret relationships, leaks to a newspaper, racial tensions, hired killers, silent partners, clandestine meetings, assassination attempts, and more. That’s quite a bit for 133 pages.

One of the characters had been unable to watch the first manned moon landing in 1969 because he was serving in the Vietnam War. The war gets another mention in the book when Underwood observes:  “History records that the modern-day SWAT Teams based their entry tactics on the Marine Corps house-to-house fighting at Hue City in 1968.”

You might want to wear a hard hat while reading this one, just for safety purposes.

The author’s website is lynnunderwoodauthor.com

–Bill McCloud