A PI exposes corruption while trying to prove the innocence of a young man accused of killing a cop in McClendon’s debut mystery novel.
Former NYPD officer–turned-gumshoe Brian Kelly picked a bad time to stop smoking. While suffering physical withdrawal and dreams of aggressive, sharp-toothed packs of cigarettes, he’s working a case to help clear murder suspect James Turner. The murder seems to be mob-related, but it’s clear that dirty cops have their hands in it—and someone thinks James knows the location of a hefty amount of cash. McClendon’s story starts on solid footing for a murder mystery: It opens on a stormy night with a mother proclaiming her son’s innocence to a lowly private eye. Some of the novel’s beginning, however, appears to be missing a few pieces: Details of the case aren’t explained prior to the investigation but only as it unfolds, and Kelly never looks into the initial murder victim, whose name isn’t even given until a quarter of the way into the story. But there are plenty of morsels to savor, from a mysterious phone call James receives on the night of the murder to Kelly’s finding no arrest record for a missing restaurant owner who’d been taken away by police officers. McClendon helps keep things in focus by providing a recap of the case. Kelly’s decision to give up smoking adds a searing dynamic to his character, a film noir detective in a perpetual state of being slipped a mickey; peppermints become his new addiction. Especially refreshing is Kelly’s relationship to attorney Julie Black, who recommends him to Turner’s mother—Kelly’s unrequited love whom he has known since childhood and who doesn’t seem interested in dating him. Another murder or two follow the first, and while specifics or motivations for some of the events aren’t fully fleshed out even by book’s end, the responsible party is made abundantly clear. The final pages forgo the mystery in favor of a scorching action scene centered on a rescue mission.
Some of the finer points could have used clarification, but readers looking for a diverting, compact murder mystery will be more than content.