Tag Archives: detective fiction

William Heffernan’s detective attends to the dead

“The Dead Detective,” by William Heffernan. Akashic Books. 340 pages. $24.95.

William Heffernan’s Harry Doyle is a hard-boiled, no-nonsense police detective with a spiritual side and a powerful sense of mission. Some say that dead speak to him, and Doyle doesn’t deny it. After all, he was dead once himself – murdered at age ten, along with his younger brother, by a lunatic mother who thought her sons needed the benefits of the heavenly hereafter. Technically, if briefly, gone from this world, Harry Doyle was miraculously resuscitated. In part due to his testimony, Doyle’s mother was locked up for life. The boy was adopted by the loving couple who had become his foster parents, taking their last name. 

The present time of the story is two decades later. Doyle is a detective with the Pinellas County (Tampa area) Sheriff’s Department tasked with examining the homicide of Darlene Beckett. The victim, a gorgeous young woman, was herself recently a perpetrator. Because her victim did not wish to testify, she was able to receive a light sentence for sexual assault of a minor, a fourteen year old boy who was a student in Beckett’s middle school health class. Her sentence included three years of wearing an ankle monitor, but no actual jail time. Many outraged people felt she deserved a much harsher punishment. Would they take matters into their own hands?

Doyle and his colleagues find Beckett’s body seductively posed with the word “evil” cut into her forehead. Though she had bled out from her throat being sliced through, there was no blood pool where the body was discovered, suggesting that Beckett had been murdered elsewhere and then moved.

The case, investigated by Doyle and his team under great political pressure, is conducted (and narrated) with careful attention to procedural detail. Mr. Heffernan is able to fashion the procedural trail so that it is not only authoritative and authentic, but also intriguing and suspenseful.

The range of suspects includes the boy’s parents and members of the church they belonged to, many of whom seem ready to take the Lord’s retribution into their own hands. They have been urged on by the church’s head minister, who has used his pulpit to stir them up. Additionally, the minister’s son, a young man with a juvenile police record, has been one of Darlene Beckett’s playthings and may have his own motives. Another of Beckett’s bedmates is a would-be Lothario policeman soon removed from working on the case. Altered police records point a finger at him.

Harry Doyle and his new partner, the sharp and shapely Vicky Stanopolous, lead the investigation, with the help of an eager young deputy named Jim Morgan. However, something else is on Doyle’s mind. His mother is up for parole after twenty years in prison, and Doyle is determined that she be kept behind bars. His own testimony will be part of the parole hearing.

To read this review (with interview)  in its entirety, as it appears in the Naples (Dec. 30, 2010), Fort Myers (Dec. 29), and Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda (Dec. 30) editions of Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – William Heffernan pdf

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The Return of Lupe Solano

by Philip K. Jason              Special to Florida Weekly

“Bloody Twist,” by Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. Miramar. 270 pages. $12.95 (and specially priced at only $2.99 for Kindle edition).

I have missed Lupe Solano, Ms. Garcia-Aguilera’s frank and flirtatious Cuban-American private investigator. After an eight year absence, this delightful and distinctive series resumes with “Bloody Twist,” once again taking us through the Miami and Miami Beach neighborhoods that the author portrays with affectionate good humor. Lupe is simultaneously a pleasure-loving young lady and a dedicated professional. Always ready for another Cuban meal and another toss in the sheets with a lover, she nevertheless takes her business seriously, and she is good at it. 

Or she was. Lupe Solano, seriously wounded on her last case two years back (“Bitter Sugar”), harbors doubts about whether or not she has recovered sufficiently to be on top of her game. At the close of a surveillance episode, the author has Lupe insist: “Although I was a bit rusty, I’d never really forgotten how to do it.” The rust shows, and there is a bit of rust, too, spotting this author’s usual polish. However, the qualities that have engaged readers of this series in the past are still there – and in great abundance.

In this story, Lupe is hired by her frequent employer, defense attorney and Lupe-lover Tommy MacDonald, to help build the case that will exonerate his client, a gorgeous and seemingly sweet specialty call girl named Madeline Marie Meadows. Her specialty? Managing to charge $5,000 a visit while remaining an authenticated virgin! Is this outlandish? Of course. Can Ms. Garcia-Aguilera make us believe it? Well, even Lupe is skeptical, though she understands that the competitive male ego includes plenty of wealthy gentlemen who would like to earn the reputation and the prize of changing Madeline’s status. 

Madeline is about to be charged with multiple murders when she asks Tommy to take her case. The police have discovered that a gun bearing Madeline’s fingerprints has been used in several murders, and each victim has some relationship with Madeline. One is a man whom she was supposed to marry, but there was a falling out. Another is a prominent client named Robinson. Another is Dr. Steinberg, her gynecologist – the person who authenticates Madeline’s virgin status once a week.

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the October 27-November 2, 2010 edition of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Carolina Garcia-Aguilera. For pdf of Naples Florida Weekly for October 28-November 3, click here: Florida Weekly – Carolina Garcia-Aguilera pdf

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Kinley Roby’s Other Naples

When retired English professor Kinley Roby and his wife, gothic romance author Mary Linn Roby, were living at the St. Pierre in Pelican Bay, few knew that Mr. Roby was storing up local landscapes and local color for a series of mystery novels. Thirteen years in Naples, beginning in 1994, gave him a lot of images to transform imaginatively. He began working on what became his first novel in 2001, publishing “Death in a Hammock” two years later.  Kinley R by Nick Shirghio

Since then, Mr. Roby’s Harry Brock Mysteries have gained a loyal readership and critical acclaim.

“Death’s Other Kingdom,” the fifth and latest in the series, should please Harry Brock followers and win Mr. Roby new fans. It tells a fascinating story of human trafficking as well as subsidiary stories of abiding friendships and chaotic family dynamics. The characters are superbly drawn, and Mr. Roby’s version of the Naples area is not one we are used to associating with this opulent town.

To read the full article as it appears in the September 24-30, 2009 issue of Naples Florida Weekly, click here:  Florida Weekly – Kinley Roby

See also: https://philjason.wordpress.com/2009/01/26/something-about-mary-linn-roby/

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