Monday, September 01, 2008

THE CASE OF THE GREEDY LAWYERS by Carl Brookins (Nodin Press)

I'm a sucker for detectives who are throwbacks to the original hardboiled PIs—in fact, I stayed up late last night to watch a black and white Mike Hammer TV show. If the title of this one doesn't tip you off that this one would suit me, the cover artwork certainly would: a fedora-topped chisel-faced man, cigarette in mouth, stands in a dark alley.

Sean Sean narrates his story in the parlance of old, "You see, I'm a throwback. I'm passé, out of date, a lost cause. The world is no longer interested in me and my kind. I'm no longer needed. Or so they say." Thus, I was hooked on the first page.

Sean's cases are strictly contemporary, but his self-deprecating style reminds me of the 25¢ Pocket paperbacks I adored. The story is sound. The red herrings abound. But my favorite part of the book was the trip down memory lane.

Thank you, Carl Brookins, for taking me back!

PRODIGAL SON by Thomas B. Cavanagh (Thomas Dunne Books)

Now that retired police detective Mike Garrity's brain cancer is in remission, he realizes that he's got to get back in the work force. When he takes his teenaged daughter to the funeral of one of her classmates, the boy's father approaches him. "Victor didn't kill himself…He wouldn't. He didn't. I want you to find out what happened." Even without a PI license, Mike agrees to help the father.

Later that day, Mike meets Debbie Watson at his cancer support group. Debbie urges him to persue a job interview with a PI company. Surprisingly, the interview is quite short, culminating in "So, when can you start?" Mike's generous employment packages includes health insurance and a percentage of any work he brings to the company. When Debbie offers Mike another case, his new job looks even better.

As Mike starts working the two cases, he unravels more threads than he intended—and the threads lead to some very scary people. Add a Category 5 hurricane to the mix, and Mike is in 'way deeper than he ever invisioned. Fortunately, he gets support from a totally unexpected source. I look forward to more adventures with Mike Garrity!

STALKING SUSAN by Julie Kramer (Doubleday)

While investigative reporter Riley Spartz is recovering from heartbreak, her friend and police source hands her two homicide files which haunted him during his career. Garnett is retiring as a homicide detective. Both files concern young women named Susan who were murdered exactly one year apart.

Riley is desperate for a headline story—she's been on leave for three months— and she needs to be back on TV with a hard-hitting story. Unfortunately, her boss hands her some fluff pieces and gives them high priority, so Riley has to relegate the Susan files to the back burner. Just as the Susan stories begin to make sense, the fluff pieces take on a life of their own.

Stalking Susan is a great contemporary story about TV journalism told from an insiders' point of view. Kramer is a freelance TV news producer for NBC.

PAINT THE TOWN DEAD by Nancy Bell (Thomas Dunne Books)

I was a big fan of Bell's Biggie Weatherford series, mostly because I loved the voice. Now I'm a fan of the Judge Jackson Crain series mostly because I really like the characters and the way Bell includes the small Texas town as a character. Jackson, a widower with a teenaged daughter, is a close friend of Sheriff Gibs, who occasionally requests Jackson's sleuthing skills.

When a hotshot real estate tycoon is murdered, all eyes turn to his wife (whose money the deceased used to propel himself to wealth). Neither Jackson nor Gibbs is convinced of the widow's guilt, so Jackson probes deeper into the deceased former life—where he finds the glamorous evangelist, Sister McDermott.

While Jackson is busy solving the murder, life in Post Oak, Texas continues to evolve, introducing readers to delightful characters we'll want to get to know better.