Thursday, May 19, 2011

HUNTER'S WORLD, Fred Lichtenberg: "We have another situation."

Police Chief Hank Reed could be working in a bigger zone, but he's at home, more or less, in the close-knit Long Island (New York) community of Eastpoint. Crime is minor, and Hank and his wife Susan have comfortable roles in town.

But that all changes in a matter of hours, when the murder of romance columnist and secret artist John Hunter falls into Hank's lap. It's not just the violent crime that shakes things up. It's the paintings Hank finds: lewd ones, of Hunter and some of the local married women. Even Hank's wife becomes a viable suspect in the killings, and it looks like the 15-year downhill slide of their marriage is about to hit a nasty bottom indeed.

The plot twists of HUNTER'S WORLD kept me reading eagerly, in spite of a not-so-good fit of my taste and the author's style. Written entirely in first person, Hank's present-tense narrative of what's going on wasn't what I was looking for. It shows what a strong crime novel this is, though, that I couldn't put the book down. Here's a sample of what bugged me:
I'm about to shovel a spoonful of peach cobbler in my mouth when my cell phone vibrates on the table. I scowl, polish off the contents of the spoon, then reach for the phone.

It's Kate, my secretary. "I'm not interrupting your lunch, am I, boss?"

"I'm finishing my dessert," I say, choking on a piece of peach.

"I thought you were on a diet, Hank," she admonishes. "Let's see, you're at Salty's and you're in the middle of a peach cobbler."

No one can hide in this town.
And yet that's almost a match for the classics of detective fiction, isn't it? And Kate's call sends Hank back to the crime scene to find a woman claiming to be the victim's sister. Meanwhile his wife is both enraged and grieving, thanks to his accusations. And the artwork that he'd hoped to keep out of public view is coming out of the closet -- "As I watch my deputies nervously lift the paintings off the floor, their silence and glum expressions tell me that the proverbial shit is about to hit the fan."

Lichtenberg spins a tight and compelling plot, and especially for eager readers of dark detective series, this book is well worth adding to the shelf. Although the author, a native New Yorker, now lives in Florida, he's got plenty of the city in his writing. Check his website,, for more on the book, the author, and his upcoming tour. Official release date for the title is June 8, although some bookstores may have it sooner.

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