Reviewing: "The Surest Poison: A Sid Chance Mystery" by Chester D. Campbell
Private Investigator Sid Chance prefers the solitary life at his rustic cabin located somewhere fifty miles east of Nashville. He’d spent three years there after his career as a small town police chief abruptly ended. Before that, he was a park ranger and that career abruptly ended. He has a history of not playing well with others and not being very good at the game of politics at work. Being a private investigator is a good fit and he has his friend Jasmine Le Mieux to thank for that.
Jasmine Le Mieux, ex cop and chairman of the board of Welcome Traveler Stores (a chain of truck stops) also referred his latest client, Arnie Bailey of the law firm Bailey, Riddle and Smith. It seems Arnie Bailey’s client, Wade Harrington, owns and operates a small company just outside Ashland City that makes specialty shipping boxes. Residents in the area are dealing with the results of an environmental disaster. State investigators have found that trichloroethylene also known as TCE was dumped at his plant at some point in the past. The chemical was probably dumped onto the ground many times and has contaminated local well water and the public water supply. As the current landowner, Wade Harrington is being blamed and will have to pay claims and damages along with clean up costs. It could financially ruin him and his small company Harr Co.
Wade Harrington isn’t responsible as TCE isn’t anything they have ever used and isn’t part of any manufacturing process for his company. But, as current owner of the property he is going to be held accountable unless the previous ownership can be found. The lawyer, Annie Bailey, wants the people actually responsible to be identified and tracked down so that if they are still alive, they can be held accountable. It won’t be easy and it will mean dealing with some of the people responsible for Sid’s previous problems.
Author Chester D. Campbell has crafted the first novel of no doubt a new series far different in style and tone from his very enjoyable Greg McKenzie mysteries. While this book and that series share the commonality of being cozies where history does play a role, this book features a much murkier central character that strongly prefers to go it alone. He certainly isn’t Greg McKenzie in style or tone and not just because McKenzie is married and Sid isn’t. There is a hard edge to Sid Chance that is always present and not just in situations that call for it.
Pacing is different as well as this novel takes far longer to get going in a meaningful way as compared to the Greg McKenzie novels. Fans that really enjoy that character may be slow to appreciate Sid as the book does not read anything like what one is used to from the pen of Chester D. Campbell. Which is not to say the book is not good. It most certainly is. However, the contrasts between the two different series are obvious and it does take time to accept the viewpoint of Sid Chance when one is very used to old friend Greg McKenzie.
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