AJ Stewart

Book Review: Stiff Arm Steal by A.J. Stewart

Here’s the first story in the series about former minor-league baseball player turned detective Miami Jones. If you cringe at the name, I don’t blame you. When I started this book, everything seemed like a cliche. We have the private detective who’s trying to reinvent himself midway through his life, the beautiful girlfriend who should be out of his league but loves him anyway, and the sidekick that seems to take the brunt of the abuse….

And a first story that’s a case only he can solve. You see, someone had stolen the Heisman Trophy of a former football player and Florida personality, BJ Baker. Baker and Jones know each other from their days on the gridiron. However, Baker knows Jones can come through when the police sometimes cannot. What seems like a crime of opportunity and a lightweight mystery turns into much more.

For the first in the series, though Stiff Arm Steal grabs the reader nicely. It is not just a campy sports-related drama but a bit of a psychological thriller, getting into the mind of someone who never realized his potential and spent most of his life regretting it. The story is humorous in spots and enjoyable.

Jones lives in a small cottage on Singer Island, among the much more wealthy and famous than he is. His sort-of girlfriend, Danielle, is a local deputy and a fitness nut who drags a reluctant Jones along with her. When he’s not with her, he’s hanging out at a local bar that sounds very familiar to me, since we used to stay on Singer Island when we visited my in-laws in West Palm Beach. His side-kick, Ron, seems to spend a lot of time there as well.

The mystery is good and slowly evolves throughout the book, keeping the reader guessing for the most part. I enjoyed it, for the most part, especially the references that I recognized. Something breaks the case wide open that seems a bit too coincidental, but other than that, I found it to be good. I didn’t feel like I was forcing myself to finish it just so I wouldn’t wonder what had happened.

However, I’d spent a lot of time over the years reading Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series to the point that I got tired of it and the stories seemed to grow more and more preposterous. The character of Miami Jones seemed created in the same vein and Bolitar and I could see his stories ending up the same way. Thankfully, I found these books on Kindle Unlimited so I’m not really paying for them per se.

This is a fun read and good for a light summer read. It’s not really a thriller, more of humor mixed with mystery and a fun type of read. Again, more Myron Bolitar than Harry Bosch. I didn’t burn through the book the way I tend to want to get to the end of Michael Connelly’s, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Next book in the series (link): Offside Trap by A.J. Stewart

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