Alan Sepinwall, my favorite TV critic, has a running gag in his columns where he talks about how he’d like to see a character from whatever show he’s reviewing have a spin-off where they do banal tasks relational to the character’s motives. My personal favorite was the suggestion that goofy Justified gangster Wynn Duffy get a series called Wynnipeg in which he gets continually frustrated at teaching Canadians how to be criminals.
At any rate, three books into the Hoke Moseley series and I feel like this one, as well as its immediate prequel, are basically a Sepinwall spinoff series come to life.
Miami Blues, the first one in the series, was one of my favorite novels I read in 2018. A raucous, hilarious crime thriller, pitting cop and criminal in the worst game of cat-and-mouse ever. As I had already read, and loved other Willeford works (Cockfighter was my favorite crime read of 2017), I fast tracked the Hoke Moseley on my ever expanding TBR list.
Sadly, the second one New Hope for the Dead did not meet expectations. There were funny gags and Willeford is great at writing characters and creating a lived in Miami, even if its cynically presented. Most of the novel was about Hoke dealing with family issues and solving a rash of uninteresting crimes on the side.
When this one began with Hoke being sidelined from his family, I liked where it was going but sadly, it soon circles back into family stuff, with a parallel story of the criminals getting ready to commit The Big Crime. When the two finally intersect near the end, it’s great. The last forty pages are wonderful. But for the most part, Sideswipe is a remix of New Hope, just with a better ending.
Instead of getting “Hoke Moseley, curmudgeonly Miami detective”, I’m getting the spinoff series where said detective helps people do mundane stuff in their daily lives. Willeford’s such a great writer that I find myself enjoying this nonetheless. But it doesn’t make for a great story, definitely not a great crime read at least. And that’s fine. It’s just a little disappointing.