Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Free Fiction: Served Cold Part One (a Brody Chen serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

I felt like writing about a new, very unique character that operates in a world we PI fans all know and love but is very different from my guys like Vance Custer, Noah Milano or guys like Spenser, Scudder or even girls like Milhone and Warshawski. Here's Brody Chen...

I had my feet on the table of my new desk when Carl Rogers told me he was going to quit my dad’s process serving firm as well. Technically, after my dad died it’s my firm. Carl, a fifty-something burly guy in a suit told me, “Sorry, Brody. It’s nothing personal. You know I love you, but I can’t afford to stay working for you.”
“Yeah, yeah. Why should you be different than the other guys, right?” I said.
“I’m really sorry. If you need something, just give me a call.”
“I need you to stay on,” I told him.
He studied his shoes. “Sorry, Brody.”
“Sure, sure.”
Carl left my office. That was the last one to go. Three weeks ago my father died, leaving me his company and a whole lot of debts. It turned out my dad hadn’t done too good a job handling his finances and owed a lot of people a lot of money. The only thing I could do to pay of his debtors was sell the house. I kept the office. After all, without my dad I had no other choice than to try and continue his work. I dropped out of high school years ago, earning some money doing freelance journalism jobs for metal zines in print and online. It nowhere earned me enough dough to make a living though. So I sold the house where I used to live with my dad and started living in the office.
The employees of my dad apparently had little trust in my ability to lead a company. And who could blame them? I was just an eighteen year old high-school dropout with a weak spot for leather, tattoos and heavy music. Not exactly CEO material, admittedly.
I leaned back in my chair and chucked the empty can of Monster Energy in the waste basket. Now what was I to do? Run this company all alone or just give up. Shit, I’d been thinking about just giving it all up and just hang myself or something a lot since my mom died. But now, five years later it seemed stupid to quit. I mean, I didn’t go through the hell of coming to grips with mom’s suicide to just end it now, right?
I turned on the stereo, Carnifex blasting their deathcore through the speakers. This kind of music always fueled me with the energy to go ahead and tackle my problems instead of submitting to them. I used to tag along with my dad on some of his jobs when I was still a kid and he couldn’t get a babysit. I’d picked up some stuff. Maybe I could do this job. Maybe I didn’t need Carl or the others.
I switched on the laptop. There was a picture of me in my younger and happier days as a wallpaper. I was going to replace that with a picture of Bring Me The Horizon or something. I couldn’t bear to see the old me, still innocent, still happy. Still fucking weak and stupid.
I went through dad’s e-mail, his password still my name and date of birth. Not very careful for a guy in his kind of business. As I went through the e-mails I found, among the many e-mails from people he owed money to, a message from a lady wanting to make use of dad’s services. It looked like a fairly easy job, so a great one to start with. The writer of the e-mail, Cheryl Hill, wanted dad to deliver her husband the divorce papers. She added he’d refused to accept them from her, so she now was looking at affordable process servers to deliver the papers for her. Her husband, one Tom Hill owned an auto wrecking business in Brooklyn and she suggested to deliver the papers to him there.
I wrote her back, attaching the standard contract that was on dad’s laptop. Now to wait until I got a signed copy back. I passed gathering as much information I could about the business details of the job. Luckily dad had left an amazing number of documents describing those things. That was probably the work of the office worker he’d hired a few years ago. She’d already left the firm a few months before his death though, going back to college. I never really had the attention span for education. It took me a huge effort to go through the documentation without letting my mind wander off to the concerts I wanted to see, the confusing feelings I had about dad’s death and the sheer panic at the thought of having to make a living all by myself, the office couch for a bed.

Three hours later I got a scanned and signed copy of the contract in the e-mail. Time to see if I actually had what it takes to do this job.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time (Rafferty) by W. Glenn Duncan

Boy, these Rafferty books are fun! As much as they seem to owe to Spenser I enjoy the hell out of them. In this one Rafferty is asked by the girl he frequently ogles in an adjacent office (hmm that sounds a bit creepy) to help her great-uncle who is being harassed by some vandals. Meanwhile he is tracking down a guy who pretended to be a bounty hunter in an effort to have Rafferty along killing a pool cleaner.
The stakes aren't all that high and the mystery might not be that strong but the dialogue is just awesome. There's some very touching bits between Rafferty and the great-uncle and Cowboy is just one of the coolest sidekicks ever.
If you're in for an awesome, light classic PI read you need to pick this one up.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet (Jesse Stone) by Reed Farrel Coleman

I was convinced Reed wouldn't take the easy way out with this series and he doesn't disappoint. You see, it would have been easy to take the premise Robert B. Parker left him with and just tell the same story over and over again, never changing the character. Reed however manages to make Jesse Stone grow with each novel. I feel like Reed understands, knows, the character almost better than Parker himself did.
Struggling with alchohol and the death of his great love Jesse still manages to act as police chief, although his friends frequently need to cover his ass.
When a bulgary ends up in murder Jess investigates and becomes involved with the search for a missing master tape of a folk singer's biggest record.
For fans of Spenser (and who reading this blog isn't) there's also a cool short scene with the wisecracking PI that makes the book worth your purchase already.
There is absolutely a nice mystery within these pages that is wrapped up quite neatly. We see Jess clash with several authority figures and there's some wonderful characters walking around.  The highlight, however is how Jess moves on with his life and his struggles.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Courage Resurrected (Ray Courage) by R. Scott Mackey

College professor turned PI Ray Courage's wife was killed in an accident 13 years ago. Now he receives e-mails from her. Is she really still alive? When he investigates he becomes a suspect in her death. Evading the authorities he tries to find out who is sending them these e-mails and what the truth is behind the accident. He ends up tangling with an ex-MMA fighter who's now a succesful but ruthless business man.
Ray starts out as more or less an everyman character but ends up a bit more hardboiled in this story. It's pretty fast-paced and the villains are interesting. The mystery is solid enough too.
Absolutely good enough to have me interested in more.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Midnight Lullaby (Henry Malone) by James D.F. Hannah

I discovered this one via Kevin Burton Smith's awesome Thrilling Detective website. Kevin of course knows his PI's so if he says this is one to watch I take not. Man, was he right!
Former State Trooper Henry Malone is kind of a mix between Spenser and C.W. Sughrue or better yet, a darker version of Rafferty. He's not an official PI but does some favors for friends, aided by his buddy and AA sponsor Woody. That's the kind of team I've loved since Spenser.
In this first novel he is asked to track down a missing young mother. He gets involved with neo-Nazis, meth labs and sleazy lawyers.
What makes this one such a winner is the way Hannah walks the line between the action-packed and witty style of Robert B. Parker with the dark style of say James Lee Burke and Andrew Vachss. He manages to tick every box I like in PI fiction, making me probably his biggest fan.