Friday, May 20, 2011

FFB Review: "Private Heat" by Robert Bailey

It is Friday and that means it is time again for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott. For those left behind tomorrow and it very well could be everybody if that pastor is wrong again, Barry Ergang will be in this slot next week. And remember, there is still time until Sunday night at midnight to enter the GONE WITH A HANDSOMER MAN contest.  On to the book for this week…….

In this debut novel of a new series, the author has created a multi-faceted private investigator, an intriguing cast of characters, and a complex ever changing mystery. Art Hardin is the middle-aged part owner of Ladin Associates, a detective agency. After the sudden death of his partner and the man the company was named for, his newly widowed wife Marg sold Art Hardin her half of the business and then stuck around to take care of the books, the phone and run her own small accounting firm out of the office. Marg pays a third of the rent and Art takes care of everything else as well as dealing with her at times shrew like personality.

A former counterintelligence officer for the Defense Intelligence Service, he has had a few clashed with the local government. As a result of being sued for false arrest by Art some time ago, the county government hired the premier attorney firm of Van Pelham and Timmer. The case was ultimately won by Art despite being thoroughly trashed by attorneys representing the firm. Therefore, it is a bit of a surprise when Martin Van Pelham wants to meet with Art and wants to hire him.

Martin Van Pelham wants and needs someone who won't be intimated by the local law enforcement community. His niece is going through a messy divorce with her soon to be ex-husband, a city police officer. He has a history of assaulting her and the simple solution of serving him with divorce papers and a restraining order while she leaves town won't work. Martin Van Pelham grudgingly explains that his nice is the one "Karen Terisa" featured prominently in lurid detail in the local media as being deeply involved in a sex and money laundering scandal that resulted in the finding of her boss dead in a trunk of a car parked at the airport. The money is missing and she knows where it is among other things. At the same time, her soon to be ex is part of a very suddenly made public undercover squad cited in numerous civil suits regarding assault, battery and other less than savory things.

Martin Van Pelham wants Art to guard her and keep her safe from everyone for not more than two days so that he can get his niece into the witness protection program. Art has some financial consideration issues as well as making sure that the firm will pay for his defense should anything go wrong. Then he agrees to do the job and before he has cashed the check, he has walked right into a puzzle house of mirrors where nothing is as it seems and more than one party wants him dead.

Combining dirty cops, crooked feds, and scummy clients, this very enjoyable novel soon turns into a wild ride. Told in first person format, this novel sets up numerous secondary but very important characters in addition to Art Hardin for future books. Within a matter of pages the supporting cast becomes quite familiar as old friends while the overriding mystery becomes more and more complex.

While that is all good, the author also does one small thing, which lowered the book one level in my estimation. I slowly became somewhat annoyed buy his refusal to use the same name for the same person throughout the book. Instead, sometimes he uses the first name, sometimes the last, and at other times, apparently the person suddenly sprouted a nickname hence not seen before. The naming issue became annoying, as occasionally I had to flip back to the first part of the book to make sure he was still referring to the same person.

One constant is the fact that action is the primary component of the book. Unlike many novels that are heavily action oriented as this one certainly is, character development and plot are not given short shrift. The book moves forward at a steady fast pace despite Art Hardin's occasional and very amusing wise guy humor. Not a word is wasted in the telling of the tale and the author spins a very complex tale in deed. As the pages fly by, the reader is quickly pulled into the author's world where the real world we all have to deal with does not exist. Simply good stuff.

Private Heat (An Art Hardin Mystery)
By Robert Bailey
M. Evans and Company, Inc.
ISBN # 0-87131-970-5
$21.95 US


Kevin R. Tipple © 2004, 2011


Evan Lewis said...

New to me. Sounds pretty good!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

If you try it I hope you like it, Evan.