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by Caleb Mason

Pub Date: March 27th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-937484-98-9
Publisher: Amika Press

An investigator goes out on a limb when a prominent developer hires him to check out her family tree in Mason’s debut mystery.

Crime fiction fans are sure to like a book that begins with the punchy sentence, “The kid had it coming,” and a scene that follows shortly afterward in which ethically compromised, clarinet-playing ex-cop Marcus Heaton is advised to meet with one of the city’s boldface personages, who, he’s told, has “a little project you’d be perfect for.” Marcus is aware of the gulf between him and his client. As a real estate developer, Eleanor Hausman transforms neighborhoods; as a former officer with the New York City Police Department, Marcus dirtied his hands with acts of corruption that “you wouldn’t put in your report.” As another character comments, “You don’t just take a shower and wash that shit off!” But he’s trying; for starters, he did head-butt and punch out a commanding officer who wanted him to plant drugs. His work for a law firm is a bit more aboveboard, but he hasn’t lost his knack for working in the margins, just outside “the boundaries of the law.” It seems a bit out of character, then, that Eleanor asks him to simply find out more about her family history. Indeed, Marcus doesn’t buy it: “I see pretty much two reasons why a person like you hires a person like me,” he tells her. “There’s something you want to find out, or there’s something you don’t want other people to find out. General curiosity? Doesn’t make the list.” The fact that she’s adopted is only the first of increasingly convoluted developments that make for a brisk page-turner—and one that has a high body count. Mason, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, writes with authority and a distinctive voice; he clearly knows where all the bodies are buried in this fictional world, and his hard-boiled patois lands as solidly as Marcus’ punches. Early on, the author leans a little too heavily on “If you think the name sounds familiar”–type exposition, but that’s a relatively minor quibble in an otherwise solid tale.

Truly old-school detective fiction that rises above mere pastiche.