copyright 2011 Ron Adams
Book Review – Shadow of a Distant Morning
Devlin Caine is as sharp as a straight razor, as tough as a two-dollar steak, and is the hero in William Topek’s private eye story, Shadow of a Distant Morning. Set in Kansas City in the 1930’s, this slice of noir fiction reminded me of the classic detective tales of Chandler and Hammett, and is one of the most enjoyable mystery novels I’ve read this year.
Topek paints a vivid picture of this period, where Melvin Purvis chases down the likes of Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson and the notorious Bonnie and Clyde. Kansas City in 1934 was a city on the move growing thanks to the help of well connected political bosses, mob bosses, and captains of industry bent on carving out territory and influence for themselves. Caine is hired by Ronald Graham to obtain information about a potential business partner, Craig Carlton. When Graham’s previous security chief is found floating in the river, Caine decides to wrap up his investigation and cut ties with Graham and his organization. He soon discovers that the prospective partner has underworld ties of his own, as well as a man on the inside at Graham’s organization. However, after concluding his investigation, Carlton turns up dead, and Caine finds a mysterious and cryptic black book that the mob is dying to get their hands on.
With rapid-fire pacing and crackling dialogue the reader is thrust into the middle of a good old fashioned whodunit. Mr. Topek deftly weaves a tapestry of history, mystery and suspense that more than once reminded me of The Big Sleep and other classics of the genre. Devlin Caine is a welcome addition to the ranks of the wise-cracking gumshoes, and I’m looking forward to more great things from William Topek.