Tag Archives: Henry Hoffman

Lost love regrets lead to uncovering the cause of a mysterious death

The Ephemeral File, by Henry Hoffman. Melange Books. 197 pages. Trade paperback $12.95.

The third installment of the Adam Fraley Mystery Series is an easy-to-like group of tales with an easy-going style and an unusual hero. What’s unusual about Adam? He’s normal: he’s not a superhero, he’s not a tough guy, and he’s not obsessed about firearms, forensics, or procedural conventions. He’s just there to help people and go where the case takes him.  

When Adam’s office manager, Tamra Fugit (pronounced how?) asks him to meet with an elderly man who’s a friend of her aunt, Adam is somewhat hesitate. Taking a case as a favor to someone is not high on his priority list. But he succumbs to Tamra’s entreaty. She’s a person he owes a favor, and she’s extremely good looking.

Roland Westwood is hoping to locate a long-lost love. Adam finds Roland’s lengthy story interesting enough to take the case, even though Roland’s relationship with the girl – Staci Carew – was a tenuous one that began and ended more than fifty years ago during WWII. At that time, Staci was finishing high school and Roland had already begun college. They met at the movie house where Staci worked.

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Set largely in Florida’s Pasco County along the Withlacoochie River, Adam’s investigation leads him to a bridge where Staci’s fraternal twin sister, Kati, lost her life. While Mr. Hoffman’s description of this rural area is exceptionally expressive, the interest in the location remains the actions that took place upon the bridge, which soon come into focus.

With Adam, readers learn that the twins had contrasting personalities and didn’t get along well. Kati, an aspiring gymnast, was highly motivated to excel and had the discipline to keep challenging herself and improving her skills. Staci was less motivated. Kati used the bridge structure as an exercise platform.  On one occasion, it seems, things went wrong and she plummeted to her death.

From information that Roland reveals, it seems possible that Staci, jealous of her sister’s acclaim, might have taken the practice session on the bridge as an opportunity to harm her sister, who outdid her in cheerleading competitions and who ended up being favored by Staci’s boyfriend.

Such complications of the available information bring lawyers (including Staci’s husband) and police officers into the story line. The accumulation of facts eventually leads to a highly unexpected resolution in a court of law. . . .

To see the full review, as it appears in the December 12, 2018 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 13 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Ephemeral File

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Yuletide fable brings stormy weather and murder to an uplifting finale

On a Midnight Clear,by Henry Hoffman. Melange Books. 164 pages. Trade paperback $10.95.

This third title in Mr. Hoffman’s Adam Fraley Mystery series takes the private eye away from his home base in the Tampa area on a vacation trip to a small town in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The heavy Colorado snowstorm on Christmas Eve disorients Adam as he searches for Reggie, the friend he has set out to visit – an army buddy with whom he has kept in touch over the years. midnightclear

Lost and getting desperate, he pulls up to a remote cabin and finds a tentative welcome from charming seven-year-old Noelle, who is patiently waiting the return of her mother, Rita Feldman, who had just gone off for a walk. Rita’s absence sparks the first question of many: Where is she? Why would she have left her daughter alone in this threatening weather on Christmas?

Once the local authorities are summoned and begin looking into the case, Adam – a stranger who shouldn’t be in this situation – becomes a possible suspect. Rita is found, hanging by her neck in the woodshed, with the next question being whether she was murdered or committed suicide. A background check on Adam pretty much wipes away the suspicions, especially as he joins forces with the local investigators, Vernon Jolly and Carlita Perez.

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His own curiosity aroused, Adam gets his host Reggie to do some computer searches in order to find out about the Feldman family. Of particular interest is Arlen Feldman’s muddied reputation as a financial advisor. Seems he had swindled investors out of a million dollars, and yet no one can find the assets that could be assigned to settling the civil suit against him. His divorce from Rita followed, and soon after that his marriage to his present wife, Daniela.

Did the first Mrs. Feldman know something that led Arlen to murder her? He’s a much more plausible suspect than Adam – but where is he?

What did he do with the money he swindled?

A great strength of the book is the brainstorming done by the principal investigators as they pursue the answers. Readers overhear compelling, authoritative conversations about how to advance the case. They exchange ideas readily, in a forthright manner, and with persuasive shows of intelligence and experience. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the December 21, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 22 Naples and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here: Florida Weekly – On a Midnight Clear

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Young PI goes from Tampa to Siberia and back to solve murder mystery

The Veiled Lagoon, by Henry Hoffman. Martin Sisters Publishing. 214 pages. Trade paper $15.95.

This is Mr. Hoffman’s second “Adam Fraley Mystery” and his fifth novel overall. The case Adam investigates comes about in an unusual way. A man named Charlton Quigley contacts him because is suspicious of the newspaper report about a young woman’s accidental death.

Quigley’s acquaintance with the late Vickie Murin stems from the fact that she was the waitress at a coffee shop he frequented. During their many conversations, Quigley had developed a sense of her character and circumstances that led him to mistrust the reported facts. He is willing to pay Adam, whose ad Quigley found at the back of his church’s newsletter, to look into the matter.  VeiledLagoonCover

Oh, by the way: Vickie’s husband is a detective in the Sheriff’s Office, a man who seems to have gotten over his loss a bit too quickly.

Since the novel begins with a scene describing Vickie’s murder, that is not the mystery. Rather, as in the classic Columbo television series, the steps by which the criminal is brought to justice are the building blocks of suspense. The obligatory battle of wits between detective and perpetrator could loom larger in Mr. Hoffman’s novel, but there is plenty to hold the reader’s attention.

First and foremost is the introduction of a new character, let’s hope as a series regular. Tamra, whom Adam hires as a secretary and assistant (officially “office manager”), is a real treat for the reader. Her “bright steely demeanor,” her “discerning green eyes,” her “dark red hair” and her abundance of the critical ingredient called “moxie” add a force to the novel that makes this reader miss her when reading scenes from which she is absent.

Her intelligence, eagerness to learn, and desire for adventure all combine to make her a supercharged Della Street. There are signs of possible romance in the office, though Adam is still dazzled somewhat by his college mentor, a woman at least as fascinating as Tamra.

Henry Hoffman

A series of chapters set in Siberia introduce us to fascinating natural and cultural landscapes. Why does Henry Hoffman take us there? When Adam discovers that Detective Murin is a fairly recent immigrant from Russia who has a childhood sweetheart, Alina, living in a Siberian town, he arranges a trip to deepen his understanding of his suspect’s background. Murin seems interested in bringing this woman back into his life – a motive for murdering Vickie. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the January 2, 2014 Naples Florida Weekly, the January 8 Fort Myers edition, and the January 16 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition, click here Florida Weekly – Veiled Lagoon 1 and here Florida Weekly – Veiled Lagoon 2

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A bridge between two deaths

“Bridge to Oblivion,” by Henry Hoffman. Ivy House/Martin Sisters Publishing. 220 pages. $15.95 trade paperback.

Henry Hoffman’s fourth novel is a taut mystery-thriller that employs the setting of Tampa Bay’s majestic Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The real-life tragedy of a bridge disaster in the Spring of 1980 inspires the novel’s premise: a young woman riding a bus across the bridge during a storm plunges, with others, to her death when a runaway freighter smashes into the bridge, causing a collapse. Where was she going? Why was she traveling without her husband? Was the catastrophe really accidental? 

And what led her younger sister, seven years later, to commit suicide by leaping from that same bridge? Was it really a suicide?

There is a witness to the 1987 Charlene Gibbs suicide, a young man named Adam Fraley. When Adam sees Charlene contemplating her leap, he attempts, unsuccessfully, to talk her out of it. Unsatisfied with the police work and media reporting, Adam launches his own investigation. One thing bothering Adam is that no one mentions the fact that Charlene’s sister, Carlene, has died in the bridge collapse seven years earlier. “No one” includes Carlene’s widower, Monte Wheeler, who was city editor of a major Tampa area newspaper when his wife perished and is now its executive editor. Why doesn’t he want anyone to make the connection? Clearly Charlene was drawn to this spot because of what had happened to her sister.

Adam had served several years in the Air Force before deciding, in his mid-twenties, to get a college education.  He is now attending classes at a local community college while working for a small private detective agency. He’s learning the trade, but mostly doing paperwork. His boss and mentor, Pete Peterson, somewhat reluctantly allows Adam to attempt an independent investigation – but on his own time. Before long, Adam is stirring up trouble and enraging the local power elite. Is there a cover-up of some kind? What? Why?

Henry Hoffman

Author Hoffman skillfully develops Adam’s methodical investigatory style and his commitment to finding the truth. While Adam learns by doing, the reader learns by following him around. Instrumental to Adam’s education in interviewing and fact-finding is another professional, his gorgeous journalism professor who, ironically, once sought the position that Monte Wheeler holds. Though Professor Nancy Egan, who also works at the managing editor of a rival paper, strives to keep her distance, it’s clear that Adam is smitten.

Adam visits the Gibbs sisters’ home town, scours police records, and discovers that he is being followed. Along the way, he also learns that Charlene Gibbs had a child soon after her sister died – the father’s name unrecorded. . . .

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the June 13, 2012 edition of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly, the June 14 Naples and Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda editions, and the June 28 Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Hoffman pdf 1  and here: Florida Weekly – Hoffman pdf 2

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