Book Reviews

Book Review – Torch Town Boogie: A Harry James Denton Novel by Steven Womack – Gullible is Spelled Denton

This is the second novel in a series by author Steven Womack. Taking place in Nashville, it follows the saga of former reporter turned private investigator Harry James Denton. He’s pretty green at this point and is still making some of the same mistakes he made in the first book, Dead Folks’ Blues. In this case, it’s not an old girlfriend that manages to pull the wool over his eyes, but his ex-wife.

Denton is still mostly handling car repossessions in his fledgling career as a private investigator. That changes when an arsonist starts to hit buildings close to him. There have been nineteen homes burned down so far, but no injuries. That all changes when a historic mansion is burned down and a local psychiatrist dies. The psychiatrist happens to be engaged to Denton’s ex-wife Lainie. He had just changed his will to leave everything to Lainie, making her the prime suspect. Not knowing what else to do, she turns to Harry. If he can find out who the serial arsonist is, that will hopefully clear Lainie.

As he digs into the doctor’s background, he learns that confidentiality was not his strong suit. When it came to the many celebrities who visited him, he would breach their confidence to discuss them at parties. Someone knew about it and sent letters to a dozen of Nashville’s elite, threatening to spill all. This means there are at least a dozen others who had the motive to see the doctor dead.

This was a fun read. I enjoyed the story, even if it was a little exasperating. In the first book of the series, Dead Folks’ Blues, it was Denton’s college girlfriend who came to him and pulled the wool over his eyes. Now it’s his ex-wife who turns to him and doesn’t tell him everything when she needs his help. Once again, he starts falling for her and thinking they might have a future. This overrides his better judgment a number of times and I wanted to slap him and yell “Snap out of it!”

The mystery is fun, though, and the supporting characters surrounding Harry are fun. This saves the story from being a repeat of the first. I can see how Womack is building up the world Harry lives in and giving the reader a number of colorful people to follow. Relying on another woman from Harry’s past is the weak part of the story. You’d think after getting suckered in the first book he’d be more wary, but he isn’t and that’s the hard part of reading this. Harry is supposed to be learning something as he gains experience, yet he’s making the same mistakes over and over.

I like the characters and setting enough to continue with the series, but not for much longer if it doesn’t improve. If Harry is smart enough to have been a reporter who rooted out corruption, he should be a little better at figuring out when people are pulling the wool over his eyes.

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