Review: Monterey Noir (The Barker Mysteries) ~ Patrick Whitehurst

Monterey NoirNot every hero lives in a mansion or works from a smoky, hard-boiled office. Enter Barker, a mysterious man with no memory of his past. Ferociously handsome and acutely observant, Barker makes his home under the soggy planks of Old Fisherman’s Wharf along California’s foggy Central Coast. His closest friends are an assortment of stray dogs, ranging from a large Rottweiler to a tiny Shih-Tzu, who live with him. Adventure and intrigue have an uncanny knack for crossing Barker’s path.

In the first entry of the series; Nickel, Barker’s sole human friend, bestows his makeshift home upon the man and his dogs just before dropping dead. It’s up to Barker to honor Nickel’s last wish, to atone for his sins, which doesn’t prove an easy task. Meanwhile, forces are at work in other parts of the fog-swept city, which will lead the homeless detective and his dogs to a deadly confrontation in the heart of Monterey Bay itself.

Part of the ‘A Book from every State of the Union’ Reading Challenge – California.

4 Thumbs-UpReading this book was a first for me from this Author, as I had neither heard of them nor read anything they had previously penned.  It was not a disappointment.

The main protagonist could be described as hard-nosed, but underneath all the strength and intelligence he exudes there lies a hint of a troubled past; one that the Author takes great pains not to reveal in this novel.  As this is the first in a series of books featuring this character, I am hoping that as they progress the reader will learn more of what haunts the main character.  Despite this feeling of there being something missing in this characters development and the reasoning behind my four thumbs review, the Author manages to create a personae in them that lets the reader know they can come so far into his world, and no further.  This main character is a standalone novel in himself, there needs to be no more explanation than that, and the reader constantly feels that this is a man who is content in his own skin and with the select company he keeps.

If the hidden strata of humanity makes you feel uncomfortable, so it should, and this book will make you feel uneasy as it focuses on those many of us chose to pretend don’t exist; the homeless and disenfranchised that live among us.  This section of society is used to great effect in this novel, which could be ranked up there with the likes of Wilkie Collins in its ability to keep the reader guessing until the final page.

I would recommend this novel to those readers who enjoy Sir Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries and to those wanting to read a detective novel with a different view on life.  I will definitely be reading more by this Author.

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Review: Clementine’s Shadow ~ Peggy Rothschild

Clementine's Shadow

After moving to the California High Desert for a new start, Deputy Casey Lang faces a hard truth: She must work through her fear of shooting another child or kiss her career goodbye. The disappearance of a six-year-old girl from a summer concert in the park puts Casey’s resolve to the test.

Set in a scorched landscaped of played out silver mines and dry riverbeds, Clementine’s Shadow tells the story of a child snatched by a predator and the desperate hunt to find her. As the temperature rises, three unlikely heroes emerge to help.

 5 Thumbs-UpThis is the Authors debut novel and, if she manages to keep up this level of penmanship, she will soon become a household name amongst the lovers of the mystery genre.  How do I know this? Because I stayed up far too late so I could finish this gripping novel.

From the very start she develops her characters with sensitivity and style, with both the main characters being women in search of very different things.  The male characters in the novel are also very well-developed and, unlike many novels with strong female leads, the Author does not belittle the men involved in the unfolding drama.  In the beginning, the cast of characters may seem disjointed and a little hard to follow, but the Author skilfully weaves their stories together as she progresses.  I just wonder what happened to a couple of the characters that appear early in the book, but then do not appear anywhere again, apart from in the thoughts of one of the males whose back story is told.  The Author has also skilfully included characters in this novel that are really not likeable, at all, by anyone who reads this.

The description of the desert and mountains are very well done, to the point where you can almost hear the coyotes barking in the night, and feel the dip in the temperatures as the day draws to its close.  And small town life is described to a ‘T’.

The subject of the book is very well handled, for such a concerning topic.  Graphic details are kept to a minimum, but not to the degree where the horror of the situation is diluted beyond belief.  There is no gratuitous sex or violence in this book, which will please those who are getting tired of Authors using it to pad out their novels.  Also there is minimum use of the F-bomb, again pleasing for those its use might offend.

I don’t usually mention the way a novel has been printed in my reviews, but felt that this one would have to be an exception.  The pages were printed in such a way that, people like myself who hate to break the spine on a book, can read this in its entirety without having to do so.  This was due to the wide margin along the spine edge of the pages, and is something that I, personally, would appreciate other publishers implementing.

Despite a few proofreading errors, this fresh and original book is full of well-rounded and compelling characters and plenty of sharp dialogue which is appropriate for the context in which it is used.  The plot is atmospheric and twisting in a way that keeps you turning the pages to the totally unexpected conclusion.

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