This Florida-set noir makes a few missteps but offers a twisty plot and a hard-boiled, erotically adventurous detective.


The Eight-Day Clock

A gay private investigator is hired to probe a blackmail threat against a conservative Mormon politician in this comic detective novel.

In the fall of 1996, Tampa, Florida-area congressman Dick Whitlock is up for re-election. As a Mormon Republican running on a family values platform, he can’t afford scandal, so when he’s threatened with blackmail—via compromising photographs of his son, Tony—he hires 30-year-old private eye Jimmy Campaglia. The out and proud Jimmy heads up the agency of Campaglia and Chilton with his bong-hitting boyfriend, Bailey. Jimmy narrates this sexy, convoluted thriller in an appropriately hard-boiled style; for example, when he’s asked to meet with the handsome, seductive Tony in his bedroom, he reflects, “Something tells me he thinks he has the upper hand. Something tells me he knows what I like.” Indeed, before leaving the Whitlock mansion, he enjoys a shower with Tony; later, they and Bailey have an erotic encounter at a gay sex club. On the blackmailer’s trail, Jimmy follows leads to a house where he discovers Adrian, the Whitlocks’ second son, drugged and posed nude in the company of a dead photographer whose film is missing. Then things get even more complicated: a Whitlock chauffeur dies suspiciously, a 911 call goes astray, books on terrorism surface, another extortion attempt is made, and conspirators turn on each other. In his debut novel, Swanson has a good handle on his intricate plot, keeping readers well-oriented as its many developments occur. He also uses his colorful, corrupt Florida setting well: the oversized Whitlock mansion, for example, is described as “a photo-spread sample of what happens when new money loves Gone With the Wind.” Jimmy can be amusingly snide, but the novel’s obsession with physical beauty is unpleasant and makes its characters predictable; unattractiveness and obesity signals evil as surely as black hats do in a Western. Similarly, Jimmy’s gender-normative judgments—he’s brutal about masculine women and effeminate men—could match any conservative politician’s. Still, the protagonist is smart and tough, and Swanson humanizes him with a weakness for irresponsible men and ownership of an 18-pound Himalayan cat.

This Florida-set noir makes a few missteps but offers a twisty plot and a hard-boiled, erotically adventurous detective.

Pub Date: March 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5239-5316-5

Page Count: 310

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet