The Commission

The Commission

Synopsis   

Levi Vogue, Chairman of the powerful Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, is gunned down in the driveway of his home as he returns from a late evening tryst with Sue Ann Winkler, an exotic dancer employed by a Salt Lake City Strip cub.

Sam Kincaid, Chief of the Special Investigations Branch (SIB) of the Utah Department of Corrections, is assigned to help Salt Lake City Police Department homicide detective Lt. Kate McConnell solve Vogue’s murder. The investigation soon leads Kincaid and McConnell into the city’s seedy underbelly of prostitution and strip clubs.

Ultimately, they focus on Charles (Slick) Watts, a violent ex-convict with a long criminal history and a score to settle with Levi Vogue. But before Watts can be apprehended, his body is discovered at an abandoned military base in Wendover, Nevada.

When the medical examiner concludes that Watts’ death was a homicide elaborately staged to look like a suicide, Kincaid and McConnell are forced to turn their attention to a complex conspiracy behind the murders set inside the Utah State Prison.

As Kincaid and McConnell close in on The Commission, the safety of Sam’s family – his aunt and his eight-year-old daughter – is threatened. Sam is forced to lay his career and his life on the line to protect them.


Michael Norman on The Commission

The idea for The Commission was twofold: first, I wanted to create a unique protagonist, a police officer not seen before in mystery literature; and secondly, I wanted to write about a law enforcement agency that nobody else was writing about. Those two components led to the creation of Sam Kincaid and writing about the Special Investigations Branch (SIB) of the Utah Department of Corrections. Sam Kincaid is a composite character, largely fictional, but perhaps with a handful of personality quirks not unlike some of my own. In retrospect, I sometimes think that Sam Kincaid is the kind of man I would have like to have been – a standup sort of guy with a good ethics, a sense of fair play, and always focused on trying to do the right thing. Law enforcement agencies like the SIB do exist in the justice system, it’s just that nobody has written about them. Having served as a member of a Utah State Parole Board, I also recognized that occasionally the lives of parole board members are threatened. So it wasn’t a great leap for me to link the Sam Kincaid character with the execution style murder of the Chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Parole.

All of the characters in The Commission were fictional characters with the notable exception of Aunt June. My brother and I were raised in a large, Irish Catholic family that included a lot of extended family. My mother’s sister, Aunt June, like the character in the book, never married, and acted like a second mother to us. She played an integral role in raising us. Aunt June died many years ago after a courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease. I dedicated The Commission to her.

Procedurally, I didn’t have to do a lot of research to write The Commission. My professional background lent itself to writing the actual story. Settings are a different matter entirely. Creating a sense of place is an important thing to do for readers. I make a conscious effort to use real places whenever possible. I can’t do that effectively without getting out and actually visiting locations I intend to use in the story. For example, a small part of The Commission took place at an abandoned military base in Wendover, Utah. I visited the town and the base so that I could accurately convey what the place was really like. Absent a personal visit, I don’t know how I could have done that.


Reviews   

Booklist

“Fast pacing, plot twists, engaging characters, and an inside view of the prison system combine in this strong series debut.”


Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“This impressive debut from a criminal justice professor and former lawman exudes verisimilitude from start to finish. Norman is off to a fine start with this alternatively gripping and repellent crime novel.”


Kirkus Reviews

“A refreshing throwback to the lean, straight-ahead police procedurals of the Dragnet era. In his fiction debut, Norman’s precise, foursquare prose is a perfect match for his story. Bring on the series.”


Entertainment Weekly

“You don’t think of squeaky-clean Salt Lake City as Murder Central, but like everyone else in Michael Norman’s thriller, The Commission, it’s cast against type… Norman paints Kincaid as a savvy modern day hero who’s more worried about raising his 8-year-old daughter than in scoring with a femme fatale or his comely partner. Sure, he’s PC (politically correct), but how can you not root for such a stand-up guy.”


London Observer

“This debut from an ex-cop and parole board officer is authentic and gripping. The venal chair of the Utah Board of Pardons is murdered. When the ex-con main suspect is also killed, the investigation moves from the city’s sordid underbelly into the prison system itself. Riveting.”