Category Archives: private investigators

Happy Birthday, Ross MacDonald

Kenneth Millar, who wrote under the pen name Ross MacDonald, was born today (December 13) in 1915.  He passed away in 1983.

MacDonald is best remembered as the creator of the Los Angeles based private investigator Lew Archer, although he also wrote stand-alone novels as well.  His early work was somewhat derivative of Raymond Chandler, but he soon established his own take on the lone investigator.

MacDonald has been on my radar a long time.  I read the Lew Archer novel The Galton Case when I was in graduate school.  I liked it enough to pick up copies of his books when I came across them in second hand shops.  Over the last few months, I’ve been dipping into The Archer Files, the collected Lew Archer short fiction.

I’m hoping to read more PI fiction next year, and MacDonald will definitely be in the rotation.

Trouble in Brighton

latewhitsuncoverLate Whitsun
Jasper Kent
paperback $9.99
ebook $2.99

I really liked the first three volumes of Jasper Kent’s The Danilov Quintet, which I consider to be a  thinking man’s vampire hunter. The last two volumes haven’t been published in the US, so I’ve not read them yet.  Emphasis on “yet”.  You can read my reviews here, here, and here.

With Late Whitsun, Kent turns his attention to the historical mystery.  Set in Brighton in 1938, the novel concerns Charlie Woolf.  He’s a sometimes private investigator who earns a meager living by making sketches for the tourists.

When he’s approached by his former partner, Alan O’Connor, and asked to act as a courier, it’s a chance to earn some easy money.  All he has to do is take an envelope to London and give it to a man by a certain bench in a certain park at a certain time.

Of course it’s not that easy.  The envelope contains incriminating photos.  The man he meets is wearing a gas mask.  And when Charlie returns home, there’s a surprise waiting for him in his apartment. Continue reading

Take a Trip with Mr. Finn

the-prison-guards-sonThe Prison Guard’s Son
Trace Conger
Paperback $12.95
Ebook $4.99

I’d like to thank Trace Conger for sending me the review copy of The Prison Guard’s Son.  I’ve been hooked on the Mr. Finn novels since I read the first one.  That was The Shadow Broker, which won a Shamus Award.  (Read my review here.)

While the first two books dealt with aspects of unlicensed PI Finn Harding’s family, this one takes him a bit farther afield.  Set approximately one year after the events in Scar Tissue (review here), Finn is hired by a retired prison guard whose eight year old son was murdered two twelve year olds after they took him  from a mall.  Although tried as adults, the killers were sent to a juvenile facility and released when they turned 18.  For some reason they were put in the federal witness protection program.

Now the grieving father wants Finn to find them.  Not because he intends to offer forgiveness, either.  Just the opposite.  He wants to kill them. Continue reading

Where It Hurts

where it hurtsWhere It Hurts
Reed Farrel Coleman
harcover $27.00
ebook $13.99

I’ve been a fan of Reed Farrel Coleman for years, ever since I read Walking the Perfect Square.  So when I saw he had a new series, I didn’t hesitate to pony up the cost of a hardcover.

It was a good investment, I’m looking forward to further installments in this series. Continue reading

Mr. Finn Returns in Scar Tissue

51-nAutN4ML._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Scar Tissue
Trace Conger
paper $12.95 ebook $4.99

A few months ago I reviewed the first volume in a new PI series, The Shadow Broker by Trace Conger. At the time it was a finalist for the Shamus Award for best independently published novel. Since then, it has won the award. So congratulations to Mr. Conger for the win. It was well deserved. I’d also like to say thank you to him for the review copy of Scar Tissue.

The story picks up about three months after the end of The Shadow Broker.  Finn has moved from his house boat into an apartment in Cincinatti that he shares with his father.  He still spends weekends with his daughter.  He also spends a considerable amount of time with his new girlfriend, who just happens to be the nurse at his daughter’s school.  His ex-wife is still living with the doctor she left him for, but that’s about to change.  It seems the doctor has a little secret. Continue reading

Strolling Through the Devil’s Garden

91NSUhiOT5LDevil’s Garden
Ace Atkins
paper $16.00
ebook $11.99

At one point in The Lost Detective, Nathan Ward mentioned that Hammett had worked for a time on the Arbuckle case. And that reminded me that Ace Atkins had written a novel about Hammett’s work on the case which I had been wanting to read.  So I did.

For those who may not be aware of the Arbuckle case, and I’m assuming that’s going to be many of you because Arbuckle is pretty much forgotten these days, it changed Hollywood and the studio system forever. Continue reading

Dealing with The Shadow Broker

The Shadow BrokerThe Shadow Broker
Trace Conger
$12.95 paper
$4.99 ebook

So back in the middle of June or thereabouts, I received an email from Trace Conger.  Mr. Conger had seen my post about the Shamus Awards.  His novel The Shadow Broker had made the final ballot for best independently published novel, and would I be interested in reviewing it?  I said I would, but I didn’t think I could get to it before sometime in August as I had a pretty full slate.  He said that would be fine and sent me an electronic copy.  (Many thanks, sir.)

In fairness, I can’t say whether The Shadow Broker is deserving of the award simply because I haven’t read any of the other independently published titles on the ballot.  But I can say that it certainly deserves to be on the ballot and should be hard to beat.  Continue reading

2015 Shamus Award Finalists Announced

pwa_logo_2If you read my main blog, Adventures Fantastic, then you know that one of the awards I hold in high esteem is the Shamus Award, given by the Private Eye Writers of America.  In fact, the only award I hold in higher esteem is the David Gemmell Award.

One of the things I like best about the Shamus it that it’s one of the few awards that honors work published by independent authors.  Most of the major genre awards, such as the Hugo, the Nebula, and the World Fantasy (and, yes, the Gemmell) don’t recognize independent work, at least not as a matter of course.  So, kudos to the PWA for doing so.

Well, the other day the finalists for the Shamus were announced: Continue reading

The Vanishing Smile

vanishing smile ebookThe Vanishing Smile
Earl Emerson
ebook $3.99

I was in the mood for a private eye novel a couple of weeks ago. I’d picked up an old paperback copy of The Vanishing Smile somewhere during the last few months, so I thought I’d give it a try. I knew this wasn’t the first book in the series (The Rainy City), as I had a copy of that one along with a few of Emerson’s other books. But sometimes series really don’t hit their stride until two or three volumes in, so I decided to give The Vanishing Smile a try. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Dashiell Hammett (1894-1961)

hammett_reduxDashiell Hammett was born on this day in 1894.  Hammett was arguably the greatest writer of detective fiction in the 20th century.  His lean prose and hardboiled style defined a genre.  Often imitated, he was rarely equaled.

It’s rather surprising that his reputation is built on such a small body of work.  Hammett started out writing for the pulps, particularly Black Mask.  His best known creation was Sam Spade, who was immortalized by Humphrey Bogart in the third film adaptation of The Maltese Falcon.

But it was his earlier creation, an unnamed operative of the Continental Detective Agency that built his reputation.  Narrating his own adventures, the Continental Op’s lean, first-person style created a fictional icon, that of the cynical, hardboiled, first-person PI story.

Hammett was able to bring such verisimilitude to his work because he’d been a Pinkerton operative.  He once said that all of his stories were true.  If anyone has written a book (or a Ph.D. thesis) on that topic, I’d love to see it.

Anyway, pour yourself a shot of something good, raise your glass to Hammett’s memory and legacy, and sit back with one of his books.  You won’t be disappointed.