LAIRD BARRON – Blood Standard. Isaiah Coleridge #1. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover, April 2018; premium paperback, April 2019.

   To get the facts straight first, Isaiah Coleridge is not a private eye when Blood Standard begins, far from it, and even when the book ends, it is doubtful that he will ever be more than an unlicensed PI. What he really is a retired hitman for the mob. An unfortunate incident at the beginning of the book, when he is living in Alaska, forces him to retreat to a recovery facility in New York State, somewhere near New Paltz.

   While finding a new life mucking out stables and other farm work, he is asked to find the granddaughter, about 18 and somewhat wild, of his new hosts. She has gone missing, and while she has done so before, it has never been as long as it has this time.

   Isaiah says he will see what he can do, but what he does not realize that by simply asking questions will stir up all kinds of trouble. You might not think that there could be trouble like this in such tranquil surroundings, but you would be dead wrong. There are rival gangs running all sorts of criminal activity in the area, and Isaiah finds himself right in the middle between them, along with a new ally named Lionel, a co-worker at the farm and a former Special Forces agent.

   It takes a while to find a footing in this story, or at least it did me. Isaiah tells the story himself, and it is difficult to grasp the concept that a hit man for the Outfit could speak as eloquently, shall we say, as he does. It is also a long book, over 360 pages, and it is not always easy to remember all of the characters, many of whom appear only every so often and, I am sorry to say, are often little more than stereotypical and one-dimensional people.

   But the forcefulness of the telling may get you over any rough spots you may find. This is a tough minded story, no doubt about it. There may be some resemblance between this book and the Spenser novels, but Spenser and Hawk are sheer pussycats in comparison to Isaiah and Lionel when the latter get into action, which is often and bloody. When it comes to the rough and tough streets of Boston as a center of underworld activity, it’s a mere walk in the park to what goes on in upstate New York.

   Number two in the series will be Black Mountain, coming soon. I’m looking forward to it.