Book Reviews

Book Review: Dead Folks’ Blues by Steve Womack – Too Predictable

Warning: Spoilers, although the plot wasn’t all that cryptic.

Written in 1994, this is the first in a series about a former newspaper reporter turned private detective in Nashville, Tennessee. I found it to be a terribly predictable, but fun read.

Harry James Denton was fired by his newspaper and divorced by his upwardly mobile ex-wife. He decided to become a private investigator since that seemed like an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it seems. The dearth of cases in Nashville has led him to help a friend repossess cars just so he can pay (some of) the bills.

Into this situation comes Rachel Fletcher, Harry’s college girlfriend, who’s now married to a preeminent Doctor. Rachel is worried about her husband, Conrad’s gambling debts. It seems they are now getting threats and Rachel wants to settle them before they go any further. At least, that’s what she tells Harry. Harry starts investigating, but before he can get too far, Conrad is murdered. At first, the police look toward Harry but then realize he has an alibi.

Everyone tells Harry to leave it to the police, but that’s not Harry. He begins digging and finds out that Conrad was not well-liked and had a history of sexual harassment of the medical students under his supervision. At the same time, his feelings toward Rachel are reigniting. Can he find the killer before the police?

If you guessed who the killer was from that description, you’re not alone. I pretty much had it figured out right from the beginning. Getting there was kind of interesting, and there was a bit of a surprise as to how it all came together, but it wasn’t enough to save the book from being just okay. I got frustrated reading it with how many times Harry did something stupid, instead of the logical thing; the smart thing; the logical thing for someone to do who calls himself a private investigator. He’s blinded by his feelings, though. I mean, wouldn’t you figure something was up when a potential love interest tells you there are only certain times you can come to her house? And even then by the back door? Every time I thought he would put two and two together he seemed to get even more deliberately obtuse.

There are some interesting secondary characters that will likely appear in future novels. Lonnie is the repo man Harry sometimes helps. He’s colorful and eccentric and doesn’t like the law much. There’s an Asian restaurant Harry frequents and the owner seems to like him although she pretends to be hostile. Finally, the coroner at the city morgue seems to have a “thing” for Harry although he discounts a lot of the bantering. These characters are what make the story more interesting, although they seem to have duplicates in many other similar novel series.

Dead Folks’ Blues was a relatively quick read. It’s available on Kindle Unlimited, so it was a free read for me. I’ll try a few more books in the series and see if it gets better, but this was a disappointing beginning.