In Schwartz’s debut mystery, an amiable but flawed private investigator finds himself not only in the midst of two complex cases, but also dealing with a midlife crisis.
Former Mississippi policeman Jack Kendall is pushing 40, and all he has to show for his life is a struggling PI practice that specializes in cheating spouses, a dilapidated house, and a 10-year-old Toyota Camry. He’s never found Miss Right because he always pushes women away when the relationships become serious. As he explains to his best friend, Daniel Steinberg: “You know how I get. When she started talking about moving in together, I sent her packing.” Jack’s latest client is Teresa Lindsay, who suspects that her physician husband, Alan, is having an affair. Jack takes on more responsibilities after Daniel dies during elective surgery and an aggressive malpractice attorney, Cedric Johnson, urges Daniel’s widow, Christine, to sue the anesthesiologist. Jack was already planning to investigate Daniel’s death, but he’s also suspicious of the gold-digging lawyer: “No matter how he looked at it, it just seemed sleazy to approach Christine so soon after losing Daniel.” Neither case is as simple as it seems, as two illegitimate children, a spurned nephew, a dead child, and unethical medical experiments soon come into play. Schwartz skillfully weaves a complex mystery that keeps Jack and his helpers, including police captain Kevin Thomas; Johnson’s associate, Joshua “Josh” Royce; and Josh’s former assistant Stacy Young, in the dark for much of the story. He methodically doles out clues, however, so that readers will be likely to reach the solution before the professional and amateur detectives do. Schwartz fleshes out his characters well, making them believable and, in most cases, likable. Even Jack becomes a more evolved human by novel’s end, as he figures out what’s missing in his life. It all adds up to a fast-paced, challenging thriller that shows promise for future volumes of a planned series.
An auspicious series starter that blends murder, bad medicine, and screwed-up family dynamics.