Nostalgia and Reflection in the John Keegan Series: A Journey to the Turn of the Last Century


A Look Back to Move Forward: The John Keegan Novels

The John Keegan series, with its recent installments "The First Cut is the Deepest," "Second Time Around," "Third and Long," and "Fourth Gear," offers more than just captivating mysteries. These novels serve as a nostalgic trip to 1999, a year that stands out for its sense of anticipation and uncertainty, especially with the Y2K bug looming large. This is also a time before 9/11, one that impacted Keegan and law enforcement in general. But why focus on this specific year, and why now? The answer lies in the series' protagonist, Detective John Keegan.

Keegan's Evolution: Reflecting on the Past

John Keegan, the seasoned detective, finds himself at a crossroads in life. He's older, wiser, but also more introspective. Having scored a TV show, Keegan is prompted to look back at his past, re-examining his experiences and decisions. This reflective journey isn’t just about nostalgia; it's an exploration of how the past has shaped his present and future.

The Significance of 1999

The year 1999 wasn't chosen randomly. It was a time of both technological anxiety and optimism. The Y2K bug, symbolizing the fear of the unknown in the face of technological advancement, parallels Keegan's internal struggles. As he navigates through cases from this year, he not only solves crimes but also unravels parts of himself that have remained hidden or unaddressed.

Linking the Novels: The Numbered Titles

The titles of these novels are unique – they follow a numerical sequence. Each title not only signifies its position in the series but also reflects a thematic progression in Keegan's journey. From the "First Cut" to the "Fourth Gear," there's a sense of moving through stages, both in terms of the cases and Keegan’s personal growth.

1. "The First Cut is the Deepest": This title symbolizes the initial impact of Keegan's past cases and experiences on his life. It sets the stage for the introspection that follows in the subsequent novels. Not only does this book follow Keegan's first real homicide case, the violent death of local artist Cassandra Lavelle, but it explores the failure of Keegan's first serious relationship and how this affected him during his first case.

2. "Second Time Around": Here, Keegan revisits his past with a new perspective, indicating a second chance at understanding and resolving unresolved issues. He is partnered with longtime partner Rick Calhill, against his wishes, and his relationship with Elena Moreno, recently ended, moves toward a rekindling. How will it all end?

3. "Third and Long": Reflecting a more challenging phase, this title suggests a deeper dive into the complexities of Keegan's past, akin to a difficult play in a long football game. Thinking he is ready to work on his own, Keegan instead gets partnered with Mateo Villalongo, 'Matty Long' a relic from the past who represents the corruption of the NYPD in the 1970s and what happens to those who fought against it. 

4. "Fourth Gear": This title indicates a shift into a higher, more intense level of reflection and action, as Keegan gears up to confront the most challenging aspects of his past. He'll tackle another solo case but must rest on his experience and previous partnerships. It will also afford him an opportunity to get justice for a friend.

Conclusion: A Journey of Self-Discovery

The John Keegan series, especially these novels set in 1999 and beyond, offer more than just gripping detective stories. They are a journey into the soul of a detective who has seen much and is now trying to make sense of it all. As Keegan reflects on his past, both to provide material for his TV show and to let his children understand him better, he sees events with different eyes and must come to terms with what is real and what he's falsely told himself for decades.


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