Have you ever picked up a novel, started reading, and felt like you walked through a door into another time, for no other reason than the style of writing? I had that experience this past weekend. I am trying with gusto to wipe out my stack of works that I have been asked to read and review. The work that was next in the line up was Message In A Bullet by Owen Thomas. As you might surmise it is a mystery, but what you would not surmise is that the author’s style is so retro that it is fresh!
The first pages seem like a cheap attempt at noir glam, but that is just the bait. Within a few pages it’s reading like one of those dime store novels in all the best ways. It’s gritty, raw, and monochromatic, but still clever enough to keep you turning pages wondering if you are keeping up with the clues. Everyone is damaged goods still trying to abide by their own versions of virtue.
This is the debut story for the main character’s series. In good dime store fashion he is a self-persecuting, redemption denying, relentless gumshoe from some of the toughest city streets and dirtiest halls of justice that America has to offer and none of it is softened by Thomas. Mack is just the kinda guy you would imagine having the nerve to work the streets of Chicago and just the guy that you would want on your side if you are in a bind. Additionally, now as a widower and “retired” detective he doesn’t have much to lose, but lots to gain, including his sanity.
The piece is a great weekend escape or Friday night date, one-night stand. With no next morning regrets. The chapters flip past just like the play list of the local band at the American Legion Hall. The story is constantly moving forward with just enough memory lane detours to not make it a marathon run in sprint mode. So pour that glass of merlot, turn off the phone, and spend the night with Mack and his motley crew of ghosts and cohorts.
*Copy Received For Review.