Blood in the Water

Fiction - Thriller - Political
286 Pages
Reviewed on 04/26/2021
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Author Biography

Rick Outzen is the publisher and owner of Pensacola Inweekly and creator of Rick's Blog, one of the most influential blogs in Florida. His investigative reporting on crime, corruption and the BP oil spill for his newspaper and The Daily Beast earned him international attention and awards. His 2018 debut novel, City of Grudges, was honored by the Florida Writers Association and Killer Nashville. He has been profiled in the New York Times and featured on Dateline NBC and Investigation Discovery Channel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen is the story of a man named Walker Holmes, a newspaper publisher whose life is falling apart. He got the shock of his life when his girlfriend left him, his arch nemesis is trying to become unstoppable and a woman he saved from a terrible life is found brutally murdered. As if that wasn’t enough, nature strikes his city in a devastating way and almost everything is destroyed. To make matters even worse, the county jail has an explosion in which hundreds of people are injured and many die. Now it is up to Walker to investigate what really happened at the county jail and uncover their nefarious plans. However, things are a lot more complicated than he initially thought, but he is not one to hold back.

Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen is an amazingly entertaining and thrilling novel. Although this is the second novel in a series that I haven't read, I had no issues in catching up with the characters and enjoying the story. There wasn’t a moment in which I felt as if the story was lagging or there was anything missing. I enjoyed the characters, the storyline and even the vile Sheriff Ron Frost. I think this is largely because of the narrative and how the story was written; the author did a wonderful job at keeping the narrative light, humorous and very witty. These were perhaps some of the best dialogues I have ever read; they were well constructed, crisp and very entertaining. There isn’t any aspect of the novel that I did not enjoy. Simply amazing!

Jack Magnus

Blood in the Water is a political thriller written by Rick Outzen. Just about everyone in Walker Holmes’ life was fed up with him. The staff at the Pensacola Insider, the city’s alt-newspaper weekly, was worried about his drinking, and his investors were seriously considering bailing on him. Big Boy, his Labrador-mix, was probably his own impartial cheerleader, but even the perceptive dog had taken to giving him the odd look here and there. Walker couldn’t get over Rachel Townsend’s murder, and he couldn’t help feeling that his paper’s coverage of her assault had been, at least in part, the cause. Pensacola was poised on the edge of an election and Walker’s nemesis, the corrupt Sheriff Frost, was determined to hold on to the post, especially since Walker’s friend, an African American, was also running for the position. Things got even hotter, however, when the mother of all storms hit causing widespread flooding. The county jail was hit particularly hard. When an explosion in the Central Booking and Detention Center led to death and injuries, Walker needed to find out what went wrong. Frost and his supporters were determined to make that investigation was the last one Walker undertook.

Rick Outzen’s political thriller novel, Blood in the Water, is a fast-paced and engrossing tale of political corruption and the investigative journalist/editor who is determined to get to the truth. I’ve long been a fan of alt-weekly newspapers and appreciate the service they provide in giving the public a non-corporate take on the news, so this book was especially appealing. The plot is complex and finely crafted, and the author’s characters quickly formed a living tableau, especially Walker’s press team who become housemates of a sort after the storm. The book is well-written and the storyline feels like something you could read about in a contemporary newspaper. Blood in the Water is most highly recommended.

Ruffina Oserio

Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen is a great thriller with hints of sleuth and strong political themes. Walker Holmes is a weekly newspaper publisher who is fond of his dog, Big Boy. Holmes is bent on exposing corruption in Northwest Florida. In this novel, Holmes is a man with a lot of issues and, apart from the fact that his girlfriend has just left him, he has a more serious problem — a human trafficking victim he has been trying to help has just been murdered. Follow Holmes as he copes with great loss in the city when the rain hits Pensacola and when the county jail goes up into flames, claiming many victims. The worst is still to come in his investigation, getting him embroiled with a powerful mafia group and the KKK.

Rick Outzen’s novel is a thriller with strong characters and themes, a story so well-plotted and skillfully executed that it leaves readers not just satisfied but looking for more. There is a peculiarity about the protagonist that I loved. Rick Outzen gives readers a powerful idea of the protagonist, stating he has always been the one person the town turns to tell them how to look at things, a constant in the crazy place for the past ten years. The relationship between the protagonist and Big Boy, his dog, adds to the beauty of the narrative. The conflict is strong and it has strong emotional and psychological dimensions. Blood in the Water is written in great prose, punctuated by interesting dialogues and descriptions that keep the writing atmospheric and colorful. It is, indeed, a fun read.

Grant Leishman

Walker Holmes is the publisher/editor of an alt-weekly newspaper in Pensacola, on the north Florida panhandle. The Pensacola Insider may be a community newspaper but the team is dedicated to bringing the truth, the hard news and exposing the corruption endemic in local officials. Walker has been having a rough time of it lately; his girlfriend has left him and he has sought solace in the bottle. In Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen, we find Walker struggling to keep the paper going and it is only through the efforts of his dedicated team that the paper even continues to roll off the presses. After reporting on and breaking a people-trafficking ring, Walker is haunted by the fact that the girl he was trying to rescue was killed anyway. Adding to his problems, the local Sheriff, who it appears is likely to win a further term in office, is not only corrupt but hates Walker with a passion, blaming him for the death of his brother. Up against it, when a freak rainstorm hits Pensacola and floods most of the town, Walker has two choices – bury himself further into his bottle or pull himself out of his spiral of self-pity and do what only he can do; report on and hold those accountable for the preventable disasters brought on by the unusual weather event. To do this, Walker will have to risk the wrath of the most powerful individuals and groups in Pensacola and all of northern Florida, putting his and others' lives at risk.

Blood in the Water is a powerful and enthralling read that highlights the strength of local news and local newspapers in reporting on their own communities. Author Rick Outzen has created a character that is as equally brilliant as he is flawed. I particularly enjoyed that Walker was not only fully cognizant of his own flaws and weaknesses, in some ways he reveled in them. The story is beautifully crafted with little plot twists that will keep the reader guessing. As a former reporter in a community newspaper, I appreciated the eclectic and unique team that worked at the Pensacola Insider. Many of these characters were instantly recognizable to me and I also appreciated the tension and difficulty of a weekly paper competing against a daily newspaper, especially when it came to a breaking story. The narrative flows wonderfully well and the reader is instantly drawn into this world. I did enjoy the relationship between Walker and his college friend, Dare Evans, and couldn’t help wondering when and if these two may see they are perfectly suited for each other. There is so much to enjoy in this story. I am definitely a fan of this author and will be seeking out further works from him. I loved the book and can definitely highly recommend it.

Lesley Jones

Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen is the sequel to City of Grudges. Owner and publisher of the Pensacola Insider, Walker Holmes's life is still spiraling downward with an ex-wife, an ex-girlfriend, and haunting memories and demons that he is convinced only alcohol can remedy. Holmes finds himself the target of unnecessary attention once more when he exposes the rape of a young girl. When she is murdered shortly after the publication of Holmes's article, her family turns to Holmes for help. Hoping to win a third term in office, Sheriff Frost, Holmes' nemesis, comes under public pressure to re-open the murder case. As Holmes fights to expose the corruption in the town, he soon realizes how influential and powerful the key players are. Holmes soon finds himself the target of Sheriff Frost but also the KKK and an organized criminal gang who are determined to preserve their lucrative prostitution and gambling empire. As Holmes battles to rid the town of corruption and violence, he also tries desperately to regain normality in his personal life.

Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen is a rollercoaster of excitement and tension as the troubled Holmes fearlessly hunts down the evil and corruption of Escambia County. I admired how every character has been created with so much consideration, the layers to their personalities were detailed, and every character made for a great addition to the plot. The characters of Frost and Peck were evil to their core and their utter lack of empathy was astonishing. I found the storyline had many intriguing and compelling layers that were gradually exposed which dragged Holmes into a criminal world he was little prepared for. Holmes is a flawed soul who handles his personal nightmares with excessive drinking, sarcasm, and flippancy. I loved this quote by him: “I’m always afraid, but I refuse to give in to the fear.” I also thought Pastor Bates was a fantastic character who possessed such courage and high morals as he fearlessly spoke out for those who afraid to do so. There are so many moments filled with suspense, I was literally on the edge of my seat at times. The twist at the end was amazing and was totally unexpected. Blood in the Walter is such a brilliant and well-written story that has everything a high-quality crime novel should possess.

Susan Sewell

Unscrupulous officials in the Pensacola Sheriff's office threaten the lives of the friends and employees of the city's local weekly newspaper publisher in the sensational thriller Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen. Publisher of the Pensacola Insider, Walker Holmes reports the corruption, injustice, and racism occurring within Pensacola. When his friend, Alphonse Tyndall, begins campaigning to run for Sheriff in the next election, the current officeholder, Sheriff Frost, is out for blood. Holding both Walker and Alphonse responsible for his brother's death, he searches for ways to get revenge. While seeking the murderer who escaped the notice of the Sheriff's office, Walker uncovers a secret society that is supposed to have been dissolved decades ago, and it appears to have ties to Sheriff Frost. Because no one is willing to believe it exists, Walker begins an investigation into its likely members, enraging Sheriff Frost even more. Soon Walker, his friends, and employees become targets, and no one is safe. Can Walker expose the organization before more lives are compromised? Or is he already too late?

With corrupt villains and bold heroes, Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen is a fabulous thriller. Containing a suspenseful plot, fascinating characters, and a thrilling storyline, the story captivated me from the very first page. I love Walker Holmes' character despite all of his flaws; his human characteristics make him a likable and relatable protagonist. Sheriff Frost is crafty and sly, and he made a fantastic antagonist. Caught up in the suspense and intrigue, I couldn't put the book down until I came to the exciting conclusion. I liked that it ends in the perfect place for another episode. Even though it is the second book containing the escapades of Walker Holmes, the plot from The City of Grudges eases into the storyline making Walker, his friends, enemies, and co-workers easy to know and to comprehend their motives. It is an outstanding series, and I recommend it to everyone who loves a cocky, impetuous hero.

Divine Zape

Blood in the Water by Rick Outzen is a political thriller and the sequel to City of Grudges. Walker Holmes is an investigative journalist and the owner of Pensacola Insider. His work has exposed corruption in Pensacola, Florida, putting him at loggerheads with some of the prominent personalities in the city. But he has been through dire straits most recently, with his girlfriend gone and a girl he has wanted to help — a victim of human trafficking — murdered. He turns to the bottle to drown his pain and frustrations. An explosion in the county jail, after the city is barely recovering from a devastating flood, leaves many dead and injured and wakes Walker up from his stupor. Many people want to know what happened, especially Walker’s ex-wife who lost her brother in the blast. The investigation will get Walker embroiled with the Dixie Mafia and the KKK, putting his life and his team in grave danger. Can the truth save the day?

This is a well-plotted and robust story that is skillfully written. Rick Outzen puts so much into the story, exploring conflicts at different levels. The protagonist is a genuinely flawed character, a man who is almost giving up on himself. Yes, he has been through a lot, but there are characters like Dare Evans who still believe in him. Themes of murder, political intrigue, and corruption are deftly explored and I particularly enjoyed the way the relationships are written. The effect that the murder of Rachel has on the protagonist is brilliantly written, and his inner world is impeccably explored. This is a great story and it takes a lot of skill to write so much in one novel. Rick Outzen’s characters are memorable, from the protagonist to his archenemy Sheriff Ron Frost, who is on the way to winning a third term. Supporting characters, like the despicable Lester Judson, are elaborately written as well. Blood in the Water is a fast-paced, hugely entertaining story with unforgettable characters and a plot that transforms it into a page-turning read. Readers will enjoy the crystalline prose, the drama, and the superb storytelling craft.

Deborah Lloyd

Walker Holmes, the editor and part-owner of the Pensacola Insider, an alternative weekly newspaper with timely blog posts, seemed to have a habit of finding trouble. He was not on good terms with Sheriff Frost, or his Chief Deputy Krager. He and his small staff often did investigative work that revealed less than honorable activities by local politicians and wealthy citizens. Walker also had a history of failed love relationships and weeks-long drinking binges. But he also had good intentions, support from an old college friend, Dare Evans, and loyalty from his dog, Big Boy. When a major flood occurred, followed by an explosion at the jail, more revelations come to light. Walker planned to expose the corruption, and now his life was in danger. In Blood in the Water, penned by Rick Outzen, a captivating thrilling adventure unfolds.

There is a level of complexity in this plot that is intriguing and easy to understand, due to the author’s storytelling expertise. A large cast of characters is introduced throughout the book, with each one having a distinct personality. As Walker connects the dots between past and current corruption, familial relationships, and an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan that exists in the local area, a finding often leads to more questions. The reader is engaged from the first page to the last, following the fascinating storyline. Author Rick Outzen has written a compelling read in Blood in the Water. Once started, it is a book that cannot be put down. A really good story!