Book Reviews: Murder in the Worst Degree by F.M. Meredith and Runaway Man by David Handler

Murder in the Worst DegreeMurder in the Worst Degree
F.M. Meredith
Oak Tree Press, March 2014
ISBN 978-1-61009-145-9
Trade Paperback

Although Murder in the Worst Degree is the tenth book in F.M. Meredith’s Rocky Bluff PD series, you don’t need to have read the nine previous novels to pick up on the action. I believe the several characters would’ve been easier to keep track of if you’d read the earlier books, so this is a hint that you might want to read a couple of those first. It’s not completely necessary, though, and it isn’t long before you learn who is who. And the setting—the California coast—is so vividly depicted you can almost taste the salt air. I loved the foggy scenes.

The story begins with a couple surfer dudes discovering the battered body of an elderly man in the water. Turns out he didn’t drown, which brings a murder investigation to the fore. Suspects are rampant. The men and women of the Rocky Bluff PD are soon knee deep in not only contending with a new chief of police, the murder, and what may be a serial rapist on the loose—when an earthquake hits. Good stuff, for sure.

F.M. Meredith ties up all the loose ends concerning the mysteries, and doesn’t neglect the drama of her character’s lives in this most enjoyable short novel.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, February 2014.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.

 

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Runaway ManRunaway Man
David Handler
Minotaur, August 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-01162-6
Hardcover

Benji Golden is the eponymous protagonist in this newest book by David Handler, so called because since he got his license as a p.i. he has gotten a reputation for tracking down young runaways. His late father was a hero cop, a homicide detective whose exploits were made famous when a movie was done about his capture of a subway serial killer who had terrorized New York City a couple of decades ago. Since his death a couple of years back the p.i. agency he’d founded is run by his widow, Abby, who had the distinction in her youth of being “the only Jewish pole dancer in New York City,” under the name Abraxas (nee Abby Kaminsky from Sheepshead Bay). Baby-faced Benji (nickname “Bunny”) still calls her “boss,” to which she strongly objects. They are ably assisted by Rita, a gorgeous 42-year-old computer wizard who was a lap dancer back in the day, and Gus, their “grizzled office cat.”

When a partner in a white-shoe Park Avenue law firm comes into their office and wants to hire Benji to find a young man, a college senior who has gone missing and who is apparently about to inherit a considerable amount of money from an unnamed client, the very large fee offered makes it difficult to turn down, despite the enigmatic way in which the situation is presented: No names, no clues, and no mention of the law firm’s name allowed. Benji, being the resourceful investigator that he is, and assisted by a cop who was like a big brother to him, his father’s mentee, Lieutenant Larry “Legs” Diamond (I loved that!), does track down the young man in question, but at some cost: Several murders soon take place, the ensuing investigation at one point leading to a gathering of the strangest bedfellows imaginable, including the Police Commissioner. Benji’s own life becomes threatened, but he is determined to find out who is behind these crimes, and hopefully stay alive in the process.

This was one of the most enjoyable reads, and protagonists, I’ve come across in a while. The writing is sprinkled with terrific wit and humor. The author also includes a lot of fascinating New York history, of much of which I, a life-long resident of the city and its suburbs, was unaware. Parenthetically, this Brooklyn-born-and-raised reviewer loved that Benji’s mother and grandmother were raised in that borough (and I forgive him for having a poster of NY Yankee great Derek Jeter hanging on his wall), and that he loves original soundtrack albums of great Broadway musicals. Runaway Man is a quick and terrific read, and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, February 2014.

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