LES ROBERTS – The Cleveland Connection. Milan Jacovich #4. St. Martin’s, hardcover, 1993; paperback, 1997.

   I think that over the last few years, Les Roberts has been quietly and unobtrusively become one of the best writers in the field. He now has nine books to his credit. five with the Californian Saxon, four featuring the Cleveland PI Milan Jacovich, and I think he’s gotten better with each book.

   Jacovich is asked by the now-husband of his ex-wife to help in locating an old man who had disappeared. While both he and the family he is to help are of Yugoslavian decent, they are Serbs, and he is a Slovene; a significant distinction, as readers of today’s newspapers will recognize.

   The old man, a survivor of a Nazi death camp, is eventually found, victim of an execution-style murder. Why was he killed? Do the answers lie in his present, or in his buried past? Ever the questing knight, Jacovich begins turning over the stones. At the same time, he must deal with a reporter friend’s being threatened by a local mobster.

   The Jacovich books seem the darker of Roberts’ series to me; reflective, somber, often grim, always infused with a sense if mortality and human frailty. Jacovich is the quintessential moral man, always bound by his own ideas of rightness regardless of the consequences to himself or anyone else. Roberts’ characterization is strong, and his creation stands out from the herd.

   I value a sense of place, and Cleveland is a palpable presence here. Roberts knows the city well, and if he doesn’t love it, he fakes it superbly. His prose is excellent, striking a balance between straightforward narrative and evocative description. The story came to a not unforeseen if not inevitable conclusion, but it was about journey as much as destination, anyway. This one is good.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #6, March 1993.

Bibliographic Update:   There are now six books in Roberts’ Saxon series, and 19 in his books about Milan Jacovich, with two of the last three co-written with Dan S. Kennedy. The most recent was Speaking of Murder from 2016. Roberts has also written two books in a short series about Dominick Candiotti and one stand-alone novel.