JEREMIAH HEALY – Shallow Graves. John Francis Cuddy #7. Pocket Books, hardcover, 1992; paperback, 1993.

   I’m on record as believing Jerry Healy to be one of the better of Chandler’s heirs. He’s one of a group — Greenleaf, Nealy, Lyons, Valin, Estleman — that are somehow linked in my mind as the wave of the 80s, though Lyons got a head-start in the late 7Os. To be honest, obligatory homage to Chandler aside, Macdonald and Lyons, with perhaps a soup├žon of Parker, would probably be more appropriately listed as influences.

   Whatever the taxonomy or genealogy, he still ranks in the forefront of current practitioners in my opinion.

   Cuddy is hired by the insurance company that once fired him to investigate a claim on a murdered model. He accepts only out of sympathy and liking for the individual who was told to retain him, and has many questions as to the reason for it all. He begins to get an inkling when the father of the Amerasian model turns out to be a prominent gangster, and Cuddy finds himself walking a tightrope as his investigation takes him into the family’s past and secrets.

   The plot is not exceptional, but Healy’s writing is. He handles the characterization of his protagonist and his relationships as well as anyone, and better than many. His relations with the police are a paragon of realism compared to most of the field. Some of Healy’s novels I have finished with the feeling that this was one of the best of the breed; others with “just” the sense of having read a well-crafted, enjoyable example of one of the kinds of novels I enjoy most

   This was one of the latter, which is more than enough reason for me to recommend it. I do.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #3, September 1992.