Reviews by L. J. Roberts

JACK FREDRICKSON – Honestly Dearest, You’re Dead. St. Martin’s/Minotaur, hardcover, January 2009.

Genre:   Licensed PI. Leading character:  Vlodek “Dek” Elstrom, 2nd in series. Setting:   Florida.

JACK FREDERICKSON Honestly Dearest, You're Dead

First Sentence:   She wouldn’t have heard the back door glass being punched out, not in those winds.

   Investigator Dek Elstrom is unemployed, broke and living in a five-story turret with no castle. He is contacted by an attorney in Michigan and advised that he has been named executor by a woman who was murdered, but that he doesn’t know.

   When Dek visits where the woman was living, there is an object he first thinks may have been connected to someone from his past. Dek determined to learn more about this woman, even at the risk of his own life.

   I very much enjoyed Jack Fredrickson’s first book A Safe Place for Dying, which had been nominated for a Shamus Award. I like this book even more.

   The sense of place is excellent and created through vivid descriptions: “…a small red lighthouse … stood like a crimson exclamation point against the vanished horizon.” The book is mainly set in the winter and you are cold. When Dek travels to Florida, you feel the sudden heat and humidity.

   By providing background on many of the places, he brings them to life, making them characters in their own right. The characters, themselves, are ones I really liked. While they are not as fully developed as I might like for someone who has not read the first book, they certainly have enough dimension so you have a real sense of who they are.

   Dek is a particularly appealing protagonist in that he will sometimes do dumb things, but knows they are dumb when he does them. At the same time, he is smart and dedicated to putting the pieces together and following the trail. With the support of his wardrobe-challenged but brilliant, best friend Lou, one of my recently most-favorite characters, and ex-wife-but-not, Amanda, and even his nemesis Elvis Derbil, these are characters I want to continue to follow.

   Don’t be fooled by the title, this is not a cozy and the title makes very good sense, once you’ve gotten into the book. The story, and the author’s voice with just the right touch of wry humor, was great.

   Okay, there was one hole in the plot, and a bit of redundancy which should have been caught in editing, but I’ll forgive that. There were so many unexpected twists, none of which felt contrived, and some very good suspense. This was a straight-through, didn’t-put-it-down read for me. I am anxious for the next book.

Rating:   Very Good Plus.