Archive for the ‘Sara Gran’ Category

It is 1938 New Orleans.  William Fletcher, prize fighter turn private investigator,RedStorm is mulling over his coffee at the local dive. Business is a bit slow since Negro investigators can only take on Negro clients. In walks Bill Storm, a thug Fletcher worked with a bit back in New York fifteen years earlier. He asks Fletcher to find his daughter, Zella, who he has not seen in as many years. Knowing the dangers of taking on a white client, Fletcher only agrees to poke around. Using his numerous contacts in the lower echelon of New Orleans society, it takes Fletcher less than an afternoon to find Zella. However, when Storm’s dead body is discovered in a park the next day, it is Zella, fearing for her life, who offers Fletcher a job, as her bodyguard. Storm’s murder is only the tip of a deadly iceberg engulfing two rival crime syndicates.

The Red Storm a debut novel by Grant Bywaters, who himself is a licensed private investigator, introduces two engaging characters in Fletcher and detective sergeant Brawley, Fletcher’s police buddy. The ancillary characters are engaging as well.

The writing is a bit stilted, alternating between 1930s pulp mystery vernacular (‘gats’ and ‘dames’) and current lingo.  The author also felt compelled to describe every building that Fletcher entered. Totally unnecessary. The plot and action move along nicely, while sometimes a bit far-fetched. Fans of gritty New Orleans mysteries, such as Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead especially, might enjoy the historical aspect of this mystery. In general, a pleasant read and a reasonable first effort for the general mystery lover.

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When I reviewed Sara Gran’s previous book, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, I described the main character as: ClaireDeWitt“She’s rough, tattooed, pot smoking, gritty and unorthodox.” Well, in Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway, she’s graduated to a full fledged drug addict, constantly snorting coke, popping pills and drinking. The constant references to these activities detracts from what could have been a really good book.

Having moved from New Orleans in the first book to San Francisco in the second, Claire is trying to find out who killed her friend Paul, someone she’d been with before she relocated suddenly to Peru. Knowing Claire you’d realize that relationships are not her thing and she and Paul were getting too close for her comfort level. During her stay abroad, Paul started going out with Lydia, who he ultimately married. Along with Paul found shot to death in his den, it was discovered that several of his guitars were missing. And the search begins.

Along with this storyline are flashbacks to Claire’s teen life in Brooklyn, NY where she, Tracy and Kelly were detectives. One day, Tracy disappeared and has not been heard of since. Kelly has never given up trying to find her and occasionally Claire or Kelly uncover clues as to Tracy’s whereabouts.

Lastly, Claire reminisces about a case that she and Tracy worked on, the disappearance of their friend Chloe.

I really like the way Sara Gran writes. The interweaving of current and past are done artfully. The plot is interesting and the characters are so in keeping with Claire’s lifestyle. Her references to Jacques Silette, the greatest detective ever, continuing from her previous book, add an unusual element. I would have loved to read his book, Detection, if it existed. It would be a mind blower.

But, if you added all the drug/alcholol references in the book together, I’d estimate that they make up 25-50 of the slim 280 pages. A little too much, in my opinion. We know Claire is like no other detective. That’s she’s pretty screwed up emotionally. And we still love her. No need to dwell on drugs.

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“Mary White smelled of sweet perfume and mixed feelings when she greeted me at the door of her house,” Moe Prager says upon meeting up with an old acquaintance. “Kites bathed in dying orange light flirted with the Verrazano Bridge and dreamed of untethered flight,” he thinks as he drives along the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn as the sun is setting.

I’m making my way through the Moe Prager mysteries by Reed Farrel Coleman (I just finished Empty Ever After) because his latest one, Hurt Machine, just recently published, got great reviews. One more to go! Yes! And while I wouldn’t say the series falls into the “Literary” genre, they are literary, as evidenced by the snippets above. Coleman, in the form of Moe Prager, is practical, philosophical, literary and literate.

Prager’s also human. I have a lot of favorite mystery characters: Harry Bosch by Connelly, Kinsey Milhone by Grafton, Joe Gunther by Mayer, Jackson Brody by Atkinson, Mike Daley by Silverstein and, more recently, Claire DeWitt by Gran.  (By the way, if you haven’t read Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, you must. That’s an order.) However, the only one I can visualize as a next door neighbor is Moe Prager.

There’s a 15 year gap in Moe Prager’s life between the previous installment and Empty Ever After. (In a recent interview Coleman said, unlike Sue Grafton’s protagonist, he, Coleman, must age his characters in order to keep it interesting.)  Empty Ever After incorporates the cases of the previous books, making it both a benefit and a hindrance.  If you’re familiar with the cases/books, you may or may not want to rehash parts of them again.  On the other hand, it all fits together nicely. If you’re not familiar with the previous books, you may get a tad lost, but Coleman does a good job of acquainting you with the salient points.

For purposes of this blog post, the plot is too involved to summarize without the backstory. Suffice it to say, Coleman makes it work. For a quick, enjoyable read, Moe Prager is a #1 recommendation.

Coleman also said that he plans two more Prager books, a prequel and another book. You know I’ll be waiting impatiently for these to be written.

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