An Arizona reporter tries moving past his wife’s murder a year ago by becoming an amateur gumshoe and probing another killing in this debut mystery.
Eli Quinn took a lot of time off from his gig at the Arizona Republic to track down his wife Jess’ killer. With the murderer caught and convicted, Quinn likely won’t return to the job but isn’t sure what to do next. Former co-worker Samantha Marcos believes he has the resolve to make a laudable private eye and even suggests his first client. Delores Bernstein readily agrees to hire Quinn to find whomever murdered her retired husband, Tinker. There’d been a break-in at the Bernsteins’ home three days prior to someone shooting Tinker, but only a few items, like a PC and television, were missing. Valuable art, meanwhile, was inexplicably left behind. The sheriff suspects Delores, who doesn’t have an alibi, but Quinn looks into everything, including the possibility that a burglar wanted something from the computer. The just-out-of-the-box private detective gets help from Sam, cop pal Jack “Beach” Beachum, and his trusty German shepherd sidekick, Solo, formerly of the K-9 unit. Quinn’s investigation puts him in proximity to a few dubious individuals, and when one of them thinks he’s getting too nosy, he may have no choice but to put his taekwondo skills to use. Britt aptly utilizes his novella’s short length, launching Quinn’s murder case almost immediately. There’s a good amount of references to the protagonist’s layman status, like Beach recommending he file for a private eye license as soon as possible. At the same time, Quinn’s narrative often sports the hardened cynicism of a seasoned veteran: “Delores Bernstein didn’t kill her husband. I didn’t think. Can’t rule that out.” Solo nearly steals the story; he can intimidate with a single bark and a follow-up growl. But Sam’s a worthy supporting character, and romance between her and Quinn is nicely understated (and the year since Jess’ death is an appropriate waiting time for the private investigator). A small number of suspects unfortunately makes the murderer’s eventual unmasking somewhat predictable. Regardless, watching Quinn try to stop a killer is no less fun.
Short but pleasantly enthusiastic, as a newbie works out his investigative kinks.