Clarke Latham is a cynical PI who’s been around the block a few times. With his background on the police force and his jaded life experiences, not much surprises him anymore. When he accepts a job tracking down a wayward adult daughter, he finds himself entrenched in a mystery that extends far beyond this young woman and her proclivity for risk-taking and sexual promiscuity. Something’s not quite right about this case- or this girl- and Clarke is going to get to the bottom of this mystery… or die trying.
Taking us on a whirlwind tour in short order, J. Daniel Sawyer has pulled out all the stops. The moment I read the first page, it brought to mind the classic noir image of a darkened PI office, a busty blond walking in, and the hard-talking, innocently cynical banter between them. Hard boiled detective novels are not at typical genre for me. That being said, I wonder why I haven’t read more; I was hooked from the beginning. There were very few slow spots, but I must admit to being confused by some of the action scenes. In keeping with the pithy and witty writing style so suited to this genre, those scenes lacked a depth that would have allowed me to follow along a little better. No wasted words in this novel, with the exception of the kind of over-description that recalls the banter between Maddie and David in the TV series “Moonlighting.” Clarke mostly seemed to banter with himself (or, essentially, the reader), and some of the more succinct paragraphs were sometimes grating when they came one after another. I noticed this more towards the latter half of the novel. It worked for me in most of the book, but left me a little cold in some of the intense action, where I struggled to keep up with too few words to guide me.
The storyline adds a modern twist to this genre, and it’s pretty compelling to try to follow the tantalizing little clues to determine who did what and, most importantly, why. Quite a bit of the storyline (and what Clarke thinks about it) is shared via Clarke’s ruminations on his progress, which was great for me in the beginning, but it started to wear a bit towards the second half of the book. I wanted this lone star to have a foil with whom to interact. Rachael, his intern who is much more present in the end of the story and only pops up briefly here and there before that, would have been perfect as that foil. With a little more “screen time” for Rachael, Clarke would have had a Maddie for his David, and that would have had the added advantage of letting us get to know him through another lens. Clarke had an interesting head full of thoughts, but I didn’t want to spend quite so much time just in his head.
Stylistically, this book fits its genre rather well. Clarke’s and Nya’s characters were as developed as they should be for this type of book, with the other characters a little less so. It was pretty well-edited, with only a few minor errors here and there. Like any good serialized novel, the ending leaves you with the hint of a possible adversary, as yet a mystery, who may rear her head again in future stories. Fortunately, fans of the book won’t have to wait long for the next book- it’s already out.Overall, a nicely written, modernized hard boiled detective story. Witty and pithy, with a storyline that keeps you engaged, this is a recommended read.
4 /5 stars