This fifth book in A.J. Stewart’s series about private investigator “Miami” Jones actually is the first in the series. The events here take place prior to the first book. Miami and Ron are still in the employ of Lenny Cox as his private detective agency is moving up a bit in the world. Miami is still not sure what direction his life is going to take after the end of his baseball career. He’s sort of drifting and not really sure where life will take him just yet. Lenny is attempting to give him some of that direction, but a murder mystery is dropped into their lap. To make matters worse, Ron seems to be the prime suspect.
Ron returns from a yacht race with the crew of a yacht, minus the skipper. He’s immediately the prime suspect, having had the opportunity as well as a motive. While tangling with a prosecutor who is more interested in a conviction than justice, Miami meets deputy Danielle. She helps them with the case without giving away too much.
The mystery at the heart of Crash Tack is a good one and not too complicated. I figured out what was going on pretty quickly, but the book does a good job of giving the background of how Miami transitioned from a baseball player who never made it big to a private eye. The setting is the same as most of the books, which is a comfort. Ron and Miami retreat to their favorite bar when they need to. It’s all that’s familiar from the first four books in the series, but here it’s new. We learn about the deep friendships Miami has cultivated, especially between him and Ron.
Miami is still kind of new to the detective thing and it shows here. His investigative technique could always be described as “shake the tree and see what falls” but here that technique has not been perfected. His brash ways and inexperience sometimes do more harm than good. Lenny’s guidance goes a long way to helping him hone his instincts. It’s Lenny’s faith in Miami and his desire to see him make something out of his life more than just a few “glory days” of a baseball career.
Crash Tack would be one of the few books in this series that could be read as a stand-alone book. In fact, it could be the jumping-off point for the entire series, if you so desire. It was easy through the first four books to take things as they are given on the surface, even if it seemed at times that Miami and Ron spend more time at the bar than they do serving clients. Crash Tack gives depth to the characters of Miami and Ron that were sorely missing from those earlier novels. It was okay, since they were more focused on the mysteries at hand, giving us dribs and drabs about each of them. Here, we are given the whole story.
Of all the Florida-based books I’ve been reading, I like A.J. Stewart’s the best. Crash Tack has certainly made a case to continue with these characters as their story is an interesting one. I highly recommend it. You can start the series with it or read the other four first – either way works.