THE ARMCHAIR REVIEWER
Allen J. Hubin


JAMES E. MARTIN – The Mercy Trap. Putnam’s, hardcover, 1989. Avon, paperback, 1990.

   James E. Martin, policeman in Norwalk, Ohio, turned special investigator for the State of Ohio and now retired, authored a mystery in 1973 (The 95 File) and now returns with The Mercy Trap, the first of a series about private eye Gil Disbro.

   Disbro comes full-grown out of the standard P.I. womb: former cop, former husband, getting his sex without commitment, a man with his own particular standards which are at once adaptable and firmly held. He walks the mean streets of Cleveland, retrieving bail jumpers for a bondsman between real jobs.

   Here a mission of mercy comes his way: wealthy contractor Howard Eberly’s adopted daughter is dying for lack of a kidney transplant, and Eberly wants her real mother or other close relative found as a possible donor. Not a quest likely to involve violence, though a twenty-nine-year-old trail with the mother’s true identity carefully hidden may prove a tad faint.

   But the traces are quickly picked up by Disbro’s capable hands, though along the way (but where? and why?) he seems to have stepped on somebody’s toes. Martin’s narrative is compelling, his sense of plot and pace sure. I’ll await the next Disbro with much anticipation.

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier,
       Vol. 11, No. 3, Summer 1989.

       The Gil Disbro series –

The Mercy Trap. Putnam 1989.
The Flip Side of Life. Putnam 1990.
And Then You Die. Morrow 1992.
A Fine and Private Place. Morrow 1994.