The Combat Zone by Jed Power takes readers back in time to the Harvard Square of the very early 70’s in Boston. A time when drugs and X-rated entertainment ruled the area, hippies are everywhere, and anti-war sentiment is strong. Cocaine is a wonder drug that can do no harm. As Malloy muses to himself, “Even one of my heroes, Sherlock Holmes, had used the stuff to help solve cases.” This is the world of private investigator Michael Malloy who consumes vast amounts of cocaine throughout the book.
The late 20 something private investigator is on the hunt for a teenage runaway named Susan Worthman. According to her father who has been coming down from Maine to look for her and threw some money around, she is now going by the name of “Susie Sparkles” and is in the company of a couple speed freaks. Malloy wants a friend of his, Stoney Sundown, to also look around for her by way of the people he knows via drug dealing and a few other things. It should be easy to find her and Mallory figures the whole deal will be wrapped up in a couple of days. He doesn’t expect to make much money on the gig and hopes that he doesn’t get evicted.
Malloy starts by talking to his cousin, Billy Skinner, who also works for the Cambridge Police Department. The cops are overwhelmed by the number of runaways and other issues they are dealing with and were of no help to the dad. Because of the familial connection Malloy gets a little consideration and assistance, but not much. He also starts talking to the homeless young people in the square as well as his other contracts. The case might have stopped there with zero real leads if some members of the “Devil’s Demons Motorcycle Club” had not decided to try to scare him off using physical brute force and threats. They aren’t the only ones who give that a shot. Before long private investigator Michael Malloy is in a world of trouble in The Combat Zone.
Filled with plenty of action, a difficult case, and a private investigator walking the edge is a number of ways this read is a very good one. Malloy is doing the best he can to find the runaway and save himself while at the same time heavily indulging in his darker vices. Part anti-hero and part good guy, this is a complex character that lives in a world rich in detail. The Combat Zone by Jed Power is part mystery, part crime fiction, and in all aspects a very good read.
The author sent me a pdf of the book to read and review after hearing about me from author Bill Crider who reviewed the book last August here.
Kevin R. Tipple ©2016