by Charles Knief, St. Martin’s Press, 1996, St. Martin’s Dead Letter paperback 1998 paperback (shown)
This book was the winner of the 7th St. Martin’s/PWA contest for Best First Private Eye novel and is Charles Knief’s first John Caine novel, with Sand Dollars following.
Caine is a P.I. in Hawaii. In the tradition of Travis McGee, Caine lives on a boat – this time a sailboat on the shore of Oahu. He pays the bills by doing “favors” for friends, usually pretty simple tasks like tracking down someone or something, lost property or persons, or by running the occasional high risk errand.
This time it’s a friend asking a favor, a big one: “Find my daughter’s killer.” The father is Vice Admiral Winston MacGruder III, the daughter may have been involved with some pretty nasty underworld types, but the biggest problem is potential scandal. The Vice Admiral has political ambitions, and the daughter may have not just been bad, but been bad on film, participating in hard core porn and possibly becoming the victim in a snuff film racket.
That’s pretty grim stuff, but Knief handles it with care, there isn’t a lot of nastiness on the pages, just enough to let us know how bad things are for the victim, and how serious the people involved are to escape arrest.
I thought this one was pretty good, and enjoyed the second book as well. Though the novel suffers a few first novel problems, with awkward dialogue in a couple of places and a convenient friend, it has a strong ending and memorable characters.