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It’s almost midnight, bitterly cold, snowing, when a beautiful young girl, Tabitha Willard, throws herself off the Walnut Street Bridge into the icy waters of the Tennessee. Harry Starke is there, on the bridge. Wrong time, wrong place? Maybe. He tries, but is unable to stop her. Thus begins a series of events and an investigation that involves a local United States congressman, a senior lady senator from Boston, a local crime boss, several very nasty individuals, sex, extortion, high finance, corruption, and three murders. Harry has to work his way through a web of deceit and corruption until finally…. Well, as always, there’s a twist in the tale, several in fact.

˃˃˃ Who is Harry Starke?

Harry Starke is a private detective, a big fish in a small pond. He’s a tough individual with a past, a conscience, and friends in high places. He’s single, successful, wealthy, a womanizer, well educated, and he will hurt you if he needs to. This book is the first in the series of Harry Starke novels.

Buy it at Amazon.

Excerpt:

“So, whaddaya want, Starke?”
Phuttt. The seat cushion almost exploded as he dropped his fat ass down into the chair behind his desk andran his fingers through his greasy brown hair.
I sat down in the only other chair in the room, one of those steel-framed folding things.
“You been to bed yet, Benny? You look like shit.”
“Yeah, well. I got lots to do, and no time to do it. I’ll maybe take a nap when Lorie gets here. Nothin’ much happens till after ten, as you well know. Come on, Starke. Spill it. What do you want?”
“I was in here last night, Benny. Remember?”
He nodded. “How could I forget?”
“Do you remember the girl in the black dress and white coat?”
“Come on, Harry. There were lots of girls in here last night. You know that. You were here, for God’s sake. The place was packed.”
“Yeah, I was here. And so were you. This was around midnight. She had dark red hair and an expensive white coat. She was with a couple of brothers. Nasty-looking types.”
“Oh yeah, I remember her. Who wouldn’t? She was hot.”
“Yeah, well, she’s not so hot now. She’s pretty cold. She’s dead. What do you know about her?”
“Dead? Dead? How? I don’t know nothin’, not a thing. I ain’t never seen her before. Who killed her?”
“Nobody killed her, Benny. She threw herself off the bridge. So. What about the brothers?”
“Killed herself, huh? Wow! Um….” He hesitated. “Nothing. I ain’t never seen ‘em before either.” He looked away as he said it.
I said nothing. I just sat there and watched his face.
“What?” he said, when he had gathered up enough courage to look me in the eyes again.
“You’re about as transparent as that window, Benny. Maybe more so. It’s filthy. Now tell me the truth.”
“Screw you, Starke. I don’t have tell you nothin’. Get the hell out of my office, and stay outta the bar, too.”

***Disclaimer: I received a free copy in exchange for a review.***

“He backed out of the car, sauntered- you ever seen a fat guy saunter? It’s hilarious…”

Starts off with a rush: one moment we’re in a local dive bar observing the wildlife, next it’s a woman committing suicide off the local bridge. At first blush you’d think this was a typical Mike Hammer gumshoe type novel. Not a chance; even though he’s kinda rough around the edges, our boy is educated, connected and resource-laden. He just knows where to look for what he’s looking for.

“G**damn. Eleven o’clock already. I’m going to have to quit with booze… nah.”

Not surprisingly, the case takes us across the spectrum of society- from lowlifes looking to come up in the world to high rollers who know how to make use of lowlifes looking to come up in the world. And more than a few of them already have grudges against our boy.

“Why did she jump?”

Why indeed? A completely random encounter starts Harry on the path to a case that reaches further and deeper than he could’ve ever guessed, both professionally and personally. Every turn of the case leads him further into a web of deception, intrigue and secrets- and he’s not too sure he can stand the ride.

“No off-the-rack suit for him. The one he was wearing was expensive, tailored and… was that a slight bulge under his left arm?”

Like any good mystery, the reader’s not aware of anything Harry isn’t. This lets you settle in at Harry’s pace, putting the pieces together and watching them fly apart just as he does.

“There’s something so terribly final about those black body bags.”

My one real complaint would be to trim down the personal conversations; they feel too much like padding and don’t really add to things. It shouldn’t take three pages to set up a lunch meeting with someone to talk about the case. Inner monologues are good, giving insight into Harry’s character and methods. A very likeable guy, more at ease with a Blue Moon than a Pino Grigio, but knowledgeable of both.

This is one of the more enjoyable books I’ve read so far this year. Fast but evenly paced, an engaging protagonist, lots of characterization, a multi-layered mystery that has some interesting turns to it. Even his personal relationships get tossed into the blender. It’s a book that makes you want to read more of both the series and the genre itself.

4/5 stars.

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