Ask any compulsive reader what one of their great thrills is and I would hazard to guess many would say “discovering a new author” lands before “discovering a good book.” For when you discover a new author, you discover the possibility of many good books.
I picked this one up on a recommendation from Ross Macdonald. Macdonald’s Lew Archer series is my all-time favorite mystery series. He called this one of the most unique crime novels he’s ever read. Hearing such laudatory words from the master himself, I had to try. And it is really good!
This is a Private Eye mystery but what makes it unique, and the reason why I’m guessing Macdonald probably liked it as I did, is the empathy in the book. Like a Lew Archer book, our protagonist is not an out-and-out cynic or hater. Dan Fortune toils around a pre-gentrified 60s Chelsea, knowing the people and the scores and that most folks are just trying to get by. He doesn’t really want to take the case he’s offered but money talks and so he does.
The mystery itself is your standard issue PI fare. The plot’s fine, the dialogue’s fine. It’s the way Collins dresses it that makes it enjoyable. Chelsea feels like a lived in neighborhood. The characters all seem like real people with real stories. The tension crackles because there are stakes that the reader can understand and appreciate.
It has missteps: violence against women, a few too many characters, some cliches. But it’s still a good first entry into a 17-book (!) series. How have I loved PI mysteries for so long and not read more Dan Fortune tales?