WICKED BREAK by Jeff Shelby

Hiya bookies! Some books stick with you long after you read them, and so it is with today’s review. It wasn’t great literature or anything, but it was fast and well written. The author wasn’t trying to be Raymond Chandler, he was just trying to tell a story.

WICKED BREAK by Jeff Shelby

Noah Braddock is minding his own business in the surf off of Mission Beach, California, riding the swells and forgetting the stresses of life as a P.I. He sees the man on the beach watching him, feeling in his gut it’s about a case and not wanting any part of whatever the man wants. But money is money and bills don’t pay themselves.

Peter Pluto’s brother is missing. Linc Pluto is a college student who took their mother’s recent death from cancer quite hard and has dropped out of sight. Worried, Peter wants to make sure all is well. A mutual friend sent him to Noah. A missing person’s case doesn’t seem too threatening so Noah takes the money and the case. Bad choice.

Linc isn’t what he seems to be and Peter doesn’t survive long enough for Noah to question him further. Indeed, it’s when he tries to do find out what Peter isn’t telling him that he almost winds up dead himself, right next to what is left of Peter Pluto. Beaten to a pulp by the same skinheads who killed Pluto, Noah enlists the help his giant friend Carter, (think defensive end with more propensity for violence), and vows to find Linc and get even with those who attacked him.

The author is mining familiar territory in Wicked Break. The young, brash but reluctant P.I. who lives by his own rules; Carter, the tough, deux-ex-machina sidekick who does the dirty work and enjoys it; gangsters, gangsters’ tough-but-loveable women-folk, Nazis, shootouts, ex-girlfriends. All of the classic elements of the P.I. novel are here. And yet, as unoriginal as this all may seem, Wicked Break works beautifully because the author knows exactly what he’s doing. The prose is sharp and fast, the dialogue tough but real, the characters defined. In short, what has always made P.I. novels work well is on display in this book.

If you like other contemporary authors such as Steve Hamilton, Harlan Coben or Robert Crais, it’s almost a sure bet you’ll find Noah Braddock and Carter as welcome as old friends you’ve just never met before.

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