Keith Gilman is a Philadelphia police officer, and this is his first book. It won the St. Martin’s Press/Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel Contest, and the waiting list at my local library was nearly 4 months long when I reserved it.
The main character, Lou Klein, is a former Philadelphia cop, divorced, and working whatever jobs he can pick up to pay his bills. The daughter of a deceased fellow officer is now missing, and the mother engages him to locate her. Lou canvasses all the usual places, especially the seedy, run-down locations, in his search for information. Gilman’s descriptions of people and places are incredibly detailed and well written. Nearly all of the characters (protagonist included) are cynical, acerbic chain smokers, and it is extremely difficult for the reader to generate a real emotional attachment to any of them.
I was initially attracted to this title by the glowing reports of “genuine suspense” and how the author’s voice is “a powerful new addition to the crime fiction community.” I am not by any means a huge fan of crime fiction, but I love a good mystery, especially those with suspenseful twists. Unfortunately, I found neither one here. The choppy, jolting dialogue and scene changes may be considered art by some readers; I found them irritating and difficult to keep up with. And absolutely every character in this story smoked, and not just for effect; they went through cigarettes faster than I turned pages. The mystery surrounding the girl’s disappearance involved no palpable tension, just the usual (almost stereotypical) corrupt people in powerful positions. The high body count was also a turn-off for me.
Rated: High. More than two dozen uses of extremely strong terms, and just shy of 40 moderate terms. A half-dozen inappropriate references to Deity, and plot lines dealing abstractly with pornography and sexual deviance. Surprisingly, no explicit intimate descriptions.