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The Hotel Dick

by Axel Brand

      J. Adam Bark, hotel detective at the Lakeshore Towers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was laying back in the barber's chair freshly shaved and wrapped with a warm towel when Spencer Tracy walked in and put two holes in his face with a .45. Who'd a thought home-town boy and Hollywood's hottest property, Tracy, would come back to Milwaukee just to shoot Bark. A real jerk, Bark reveled in catching people who broke the law in his hotel: maids rifling luggage, busboys stealing the silver, people booking a single and sleeping a double, but he especially liked busting in on the rich and successful, camera flashing, when they became adulterers and fornicators. Catching them in the act was especially rewarding. Aside from this self-righteous adherence to the law, Bark was a quiet man absorbed by Hollywood, especially the steamy side. Bark's interest in scandal and celebrity makes Lieutenant Joe Sonntag decide that maybe tracing Tracy's movements is not too far-fetched.

Likable Sonntag, overworked and rebellious, is a dedicated 25-year veteran officer who avoids administratia. Twice daily he faces an acrophobic's white-knuckled nightmare when the train between city and suburb crosses the half mile valley bridge. He mourns the loss of one son to polio and misses his second son, who has been drafted, takes solace in the predictable lunches his wife Lizbeth packs for him, is grateful that she understands when he is late for dinner and he takes heed when she provides him insight to solve the Close Shave Murder. Poor Joe. His rock is cracked and the events of December 1948 could cause it to crumble completely.

This one was good. I literally couldn't put it down. I tried several times but finally just gave in and stayed up until 4 a.m. to read it all!

The Book

Five Star (ME)
September 17, 2008
1594146764 /978-1594146763
Historical Hard-Boiled Detective (Fall / Winter 1948, Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
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NOTE: Axel Brand is a pseudonym for Richard S. Wheeler, author of over 60 westerns. This is his first mystery. And yes, the title is a multi-layered pun.
Holiday read: Thanksgiving

The Reviewer

Beth E. McKenzie
Reviewed 2009
© 2009