Monday, October 4, 2021

Strait Over Tackle (Flip-Flop Detective/Sam Strait) by Colin Conway


You might know the author of the 509 Crime Stories and the co-author of the Charlie-316 series already. This is his PI style series.

Former deputy Sam Strait has been snowbirding and comes back home to discover a dead body in his home. He decides to investigate himself and ends up getting involved with a tough female bodybuilder, several thugs and more.

Sam is a fun character. He might be an ex-cop, he's not the tough guy you might expect. His fighting prowess puts him pretty much into cozy territory. He's also really more of an amateur sleuth than an unlicensed PI type. His rules of living are amusing, one of which is to never go where he cannot wear flip-flops, hence the title of the series.

The story has some nice pacing. Not too fast, not to slow. It feels like an entertaining stroll hand in hand with Sam. There seem to be a few somewhat open plot points in here, but overall a nice story.

Will be back for more.

Friday, August 27, 2021

White Lines (John Tyler) by Tom Fowler

 Former Spec Ops veteran John Tyler is working as a mechanic. When a woman brings in her Porsche but never returns to it he starts to investigate. Soon he is clashing with a drug cartel who decide to get him out of the way. Together with his old Army buddy and hacker/PI C.T. Ferguson (of Tom Fowler's other series) he takes the fight to the bad guys. There's also a subplot where his ex-wife is trying to scam him and his daughter. 

The John Tyler series is different from the C.T. Ferguson books in the way these are action thrillers, not detective stories. Mr. Fowler is really good at writing fast-paced action and he shows that off here as well. The dead bodies pile up, things go boom and gunfire rattles. It can become a bit repetitive at times though and reminded me a lot of the first book in this series.

Nice book for folks who think the Jack Reacher books can get too slow. I do hope the next one has a bit more beat to it's bones, story-wise.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Hallmarks Of The Job / Aloha Boys: A P.I. Tales Double Feature (Stanley Melvin / Morriss Ronald Boyett) by Frank Zafiro / Michael Bracken


I saw love this idea of combining two PI novellas in one book. I loved the first one and the second one turned out to be pretty awesome as well.

In Frank Zafiro's Hallmarks of the Job,we meet PI Stanley Melvin. He's no superheroic or tough Spenser. But when he gets involved in a routine case his neigbor points out the case is full of hardboiled detective novel tropes. He will need to toughen up a bit! It is a pretty quirky and fun story. I really could identify with Stanley and the plot was really inventive.

In Michael Bracken's Aloha Boys, we read about Private investigator Morris Ronald “Moe Ron” Boyette who lives above a tattoo place. A homeless woman hires him to find her missing half-brother. He gets involved with some dirty secrets of a University. Bracken's prose is effective as always. The plot is neatly tied up and there is not an unnecessary word. Bracken's huge experience in short stories pays off in this longer format.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

First Shot (Grant Fletcher) by John Ryder

 It is pretty obvious Lee Child's Jack Reacher was a big influence on this one. Ex-military loner with good detective skills shows up in a small town to deal justice. I guess that is starting to become a genre of it's own. So, this might be seen as a Son of Reacher instead of Son of Spade.

Anyway, the story is about the mentioned military loner called Grant Fletcher. He is enlisted by an old army mate to investigate the disappearance of his daughter. He encounters some unfriendly citizens as well as a smart and attractive FBI agent.

Fletcher as a character isn't that unique at a first glance. However, he has an interesting traumatic backstory which both adds extra spice to the story as well as the character. The fact he's a father adds something to his character as well.

The FBI agent, Zoey Quadrado, is a pretty well-rounded and strong female protagonist. It looks like she will be a series regular. That could be interesting and take away Fletcher out of standard Reacher territory.

There's a lot of action scenes in here, which seem to be taken right out of an action movie. These, together with the story behind Fletcher's trauma are definitely the strongest points of the story. The main investigation was a bit thin and could have used some surprises.

I like the setup at the end where we get a hint at how Fletcher and Quadrado will get into new trouble.

All in all, not a bad new series for those who can't get enough of Reacher and want just a little extra spice to the formula.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Romeo's Rules (Mike Romeo) by James Scott Bell

 Ex-cage fighter Mike Romeo helps out a woman with missing kids after rescuing her from an exploding church. He ends up getting caught and tortured. Luckily, after some time with a PI and fighting in cages he has the skills to strike back. And there's that ex-Mossad sidekick to help him out.

Lots of the story is a pretty straightforward hardboiled thriller. Some fights, some investigations, some twists. Mike is a wisecracking tough guy like Spenser or Elvis Cole. However, he is even more intellectual than Spenser is. As a kid, he read a lot of books and he still continues to do so. The result is that Mike gets in some pretty nice oneliners and deep thoughts. That makes him pretty unique, but also, to some readers annoying. I really liked it though. There's also his dark past that is slowly uncovered that makes Mike an interesting character.

As a writer of several writing instruction books it is no surprise Mr. Bell keeps the story moving, the dialogue fast and natural and the descriptions brief enough not to bore. All in all, good writing, enjoyable character. I will be back for more.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Serenity Stalked (Shelby Alexander) by Craig A. Hart

Shelby Alexander, retired boxer and fixer gets involved in a serial killer case when his lady love is endangered. When the killer tries to set him up for a murder he has to face the local law, who are not a fan of him after he took down some local criminals the hard way.
I liked how Shelby had his doubts about his younger girlfriend. Shelby himself is a good, aging tough guy in the Eastwood manner.
The writing is pretty tight and readable. The pacing is good, the dialogue attractive. The plot, however, is a bit thin.  
I am not a fan of scenes written from the POV of a serial killer and this book has a lot of chapters of those. That's the stuff of those thrillers featuring profilers, not a good PI novel. Not that the POV was badly written, it does create the effect the writer has probably been looking for, making him a crazy and scary individual.
A nice, quick read. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Q & A with Alexandra Amor

I had the pleasure to ask Alexandra Amor, author of the Freddie Lark series and podcaster some questions about her work and PI fiction in general.

Q:What makes Freddie Lark different from other hardboiled characters?

Well, first she’s a woman, which is somewhat unusual in the hardboiled genre, though not as much as it used to be. Second, she’s accidentally falling into solving mysteries. She’s not an ex-cop, doesn’t have a PI license, and defines herself as an artist, not a detective. She leads with compassion and kindness rather than with a tough attitude. And she doesn’t even own pepper spray, let alone a gun.

Q: How did you come up with the character?

It’s sometimes difficult to describe the process of how a character emerges but I’ll try. I wanted to write about Vancouver, where I’d lived for 30 years, and I wanted the books to be contemporary. I’d been writing a historical mystery series, so writing about the present-day was a change. Freddie just gradually evolved as I began to think about writing mysteries set in that city. I knew I wanted her to be mature (she’s 40) and independent (no kids or spouse). As I began to write the prequel novella that starts the series, I got to know her. She’s observant and kind, she has a sassy mouth, and she’s surrounded by a rag-tag bunch of friends who would do anything for her (and vice versa).

Q: What are your thoughts on eBooks?

Love ebooks! I personally read on my iPad on one of the ebook apps. Lately I only seem to buy books in print if they’re not available in ebook. I love that I can travel and take 50 books with me if I want to without having to lug 50 paperbacks around. And I also believe that every reader has the right to choose the format that works for them best; audiobook, ebook, or paperback. I also love it that ebooks are more affordable for readers.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?

I’m working on the next Freddie Lark book, called Lark Goes Back. Freddie is embroiled in a financial fraud case that may or may not involve her sister. I also write a short mystery story every month for my patrons on Patreon. So far in 2021 those stories have all been set in Freddie Lark’s world, though they don’t always have her as the main character, as the books do. Some of the short mysteries feature her sister or mother or friend and tenant, Ellie.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?

I live in a tiny fishing village on an island off the British Columbia coast and we are very close to nature here. So I love walking on the beaches and trails around town. I also read a lot (of course). I have plans to learn to play the ukulele.

Q: How do you promote your work?

I promote my work any way I can. I run Amazon ads on that platform. I host a weekly podcast for mystery readers where I interview other mystery authors and have them read to us from their books. I have two free novellas available on my website and when readers sign up for those I keep in touch with them via a monthly newsletter. The first novel in the Freddie Lark series (Lark Underground) is free in ebook format at all the online retailers, so I run promotions about that a few times a year. I submit my books to Kobo promotions regularly. Next on my list is learning about BookBub ads.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?

I love the memoir genre. And when I’m not reading mysteries or memoirs I’m reading books about writing, or ones about running an author business.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?

I’m terrible at predicting the future, but what I would love to see is increasing diversity in the mystery genre; that is, books by those authors we haven’t heard from yet or have barely heard from. Indigenous authors, books by trans and other LGBTQ authors. Books for readers who have not yet seen themselves represented in literature and art. All the authors you mentioned above are white men. Won’t it be great when those writers who are influencing the coming generations of writers are as diverse as the real world is?

Q: Why do you write in this genre?

Even when I try to write something that isn’t a mystery, it always ends up with a mystery in the plot. So I think this is just who I am; a mystery author. I love it. I love that solving crime is a metaphor for making sense out of the mysteries in our lives. And I love that one of the things I get to do with my life is make up stories that hopefully entertain readers.

For those of you wanting to know more about this author, check out:


2 Free novellas:



Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Below The Line (Mike Millek) by Steven Jankowski


As many of our favorite hardboiled characters do, Mike Millek has a boat. He's also a limo driver for the stars in Hollywood. When one of  his client, a music producer, ends up dead he also ends up with a lot of cash in his hands. He decides to keep it, which gets him into all sorts of trouble. 

Not so much a PI story as a noirish tale this one is full of people who only think about money and sex. Millek is a nice enough guy, but has some characters flaws when it comes to his morals. Of course Hollywood is a great place to be the background for this kind of tale. The fact the author has inside knowledge of Hollywood and owned a boat himself brings some authenticity to the book, which I enjoyed.

There seemed to be a bit too much of ''tell instead of show'' in some places and it took quite some pages to get the story started. A bit too much time was spend talking about Millek's background in my opinion. Still, there is some atmosphere to the story and enough action and double crossing to make it a good read.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Blood On Canvas (C.T. Ferguson) by Tom Fowler

 The C.T. Ferguson series always reads like you are watching a TV show and this one does more then ever. 

In this one Ferguson tries to find a stolen painting that is exceptionally bad. Why would anyone steal that is one of the biggest mysteries.. What follows is a fast-paced story with Ferguson taking on some drugrunners ending in an action-packed finale.

I love the concept where Ferguson works for his clients without pay, but gets paid after closing the case by his rich parents. This concept, and the pacing of the series always keeps me coming back.

This one might go a bit overboard for me in the NCIS-routine though. Just a bit too much Feds showing up, almost too much action and too much computer wizardry. It just became more of a thriller than the kind of PI mystery I love. I should say though, that the computer stuff is believable (Fowler works in IT) and not the Sci-Fi stuff you see in the Magnum reboot and the NCIS shows. Also, I will admit Tom Fowler writes great action scenes. What I like about how he does that is that he uses minimal description of the fights which really makes you ''see'' the action in your mind without slowing down the scene. There's some nice ass-kicking in this one.

You can pick up this novella as part of this bundle:

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Favorite Sons of 2020

 In 2020 I read more horror and biographies than PI fiction. Still, I read enough to have some favorites. So, as every year, here they are.

BEST PI NOVEL: Rolling Thunder (Hammerhead Jed Ounstead) by A.J. Devlin

BEST NEW PI: Arch Dixon (in One Mississippi) by Steve Ulfelder

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

PI Tales Double Feature: Crimson Smile (Rick Malone) by Michael Pool & The Path of Jackals (Fennec Suleiman) by Hunter Eden

 I am a sucker for novellas, having written quite a few myself. I think it is a great idea to combine two novellas in one book. This way you have the page count and price tag to help the book get noticed on Amazon and still can tell strong, shorter stories. What I like about the novella format is you can get right to the story, keep the action going without boring the reader. 

The first tale is a Rick Malone one by Michael Pool. The fact Michael is a real-life PI gives the story a nice authentic feeling. Malone is hired to prove a wealthy woman killed her husband in self-defense. What follows is an interesting tale with a nice surprise ending. Although Malone's character isn't very unique, the plot and investigation was pretty enjoyable.

The second tale features a very original PI. Not only is the story situated in Egypt, but the protagonist, Fennec Suleiman is one of a kind. He's got some kind of brain damage that causes him to see the form of Anubis. This Egyptian mythological character gives him advice during his investigation of a missing young American girl. The story isn't for the faint of heart and veers a bit into horror territory sometimes. Not surprising as the author, Hunter Eden, has been writing in that genre a lot. It gives a nice dark look at our current Youtuber-culture in a chilling and exciting story. This should win a Shamus Award!

Great, fast-paced reads. Looking forward to more in this format.