ROB KANTNER – Concrete Hero. Ben Perkins #9. Harper, paperback original, 1994

   This is Kantner’s third Perkins book for Harper after doing six for Bantam, all paperback originals.

   Ben donates himself to a charity auction at the urging of his ex-love and the mother of his young daughter, and os “won” by an Ann Arbor lady who wants him to look into the death of her husband. The man, a copywriter for an ad agency, was found dead in his office of what appeared to be an auto-erotic asphyxiation.

   Ben pokes around halfheartedly,wanting to be done with it, but the case won’t go away. The dead man participated in a porno computer bulletin board that specialized in digitized photos, and it appears that too much good, unclean fun may have led to murder, Meanwhile, an out-of-town friend shows up in bad shape, and takes up with one of Ben’s best friends, and he’s got to worry about that, too.

   Like most series PI novels, or most crime series of any kind for that matter, the Perkins books pretty much follow their own internal pattern each time. Perkins gets a case, pokes around, spends some pages on personal relationships, gets some help from his cop friends, decides to handle things himself, and brings it all to a violent climax, usually with extreme danger and injury to himself.

   Nothing wrong with that if you like how it’s done, and I’ve liked how Kantner did it in the past. I still do, some, but not as much as before. Some of the characterizations are good and I like his storytelling, but I’m getting weary of the state cop who’s more and more willing to act like Perkins’ sidekick, and I didn’t think Kantner spent nearly enough time here setting up his villains.

   It’s decent, but he can do and has done better.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #16, November 1994.

       The Ben Perkins series

1. The Back-Door Man (1986)

2. The Harder They Hit (1987)
3. Dirty Work (1988)
4. Hell’s Only Half Full (1989)
5. Made in Detroit (1990)

6. The Thousand Yard Stare (1991)
7. The Quick and the Dead (1992)
8. The Red, White and Blues (1993)
9. Concrete Hero (1994)
10. Trouble is What I Do (story collection, 2005)
11. Final Fling (2007)