DAVID DANIEL – The Heaven Stone. Alex Rasmssen #1. St Martin’s, hardcover, 1994. No paperback edition.

   This is Daniel’s first novel, and it won the PWA/St. Martin’s Best first PI Novel Award for 1993. It’s blurbed by Jerry Healy and Les Roberts, and Les, at least, honestly liked it.

   Alex Rasmussen is a PI in Lowell, Massachusetts, an ex-cop who left the force under a cloud. He’s hired by a social worker to look into the murder of one of her clients, a Cambodian the police think was involved with the drug trade. She’s convinced he wasn’t, and wants Rasmussen to prove her right.

   He doubts he can help her, but as an old friend on the force sent her to him, he agrees to see what he can find out. In the end, it’s more than he wants to know.

   I can see how this won the St. Martin’s contest. It’s better than most first novels, as good as a lot of PI fiction being written these days, and better than some. Daniels writes smooth prose and has an engaging lead, a certified old-style PI — pure of heart, empty of wallet, full of wisecracks. What’s not to like?

   Well, the plot wasn’t anything special, and there was some foolishness with the police that an editor should have caught, if there was any such thing as an editor any more … but I guess the main problem was that it’s the same old recipe, and the ingredients weren’t special enough to make the end product anything really out of the ordinary.

   If Healy or Roberts had written it, I imagine I’d say “decent, but he can do better.” Maybe Daniel can, too.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #17, January 1995.

      The Alex Rasmussen series —

1. The Heaven Stone. October 1994.
2. The Skelly Man. September 1995.
3. Goofy Foot. February 2004.
4. The Marble Kite. April 2005.