RICHARD BARRE – The Innocents. Will Hardesty #1. Walker, hardcover, 1995. Berkeley, paperback; 1st printing, December 1997.

   I don’t know anything about Barre other than this is his first novel, and he had his own advertising agency. Michael Seidman [at Walker] is very high on him, for whatever that’s worth.

   Will Hardesty is forty-ish, a ’Nam vet and a PI who’s pretty much drunk his practce away because of a teenage son dead in an accident he blames himself fo And a marriage that’s slipping away from him. Happy days? Not.

   Then the skeletons of several children are discovered near Saddleback Butte, not too far away from his home south of Santa Barbara. A medallion found with the bones is enough to identify one of the dead children to his father, and Hardesty is asked to find the man who killed him. The children died many years ago, but their deaths will bring more, now.

   Well, Michael may have something here. This is one of the better first novels in the hardboiled crop of late. Hardesty is a refreshingly imperfect hero, not above lashing out when he’s hurt and not beyond making mistakes that others pay for.

   Barre’s rose is clean and straightforward, and he paces his story well through shifting viewpoints and third-person narration. The story is action-oriented rather than cerebral, but it’s done well and will hold your attention until the end. Barre is at work on a second Hardesty novel and I’ll look forward to it.

— Reprinted from Ah Sweet Mysteries #18, February-March 1995.

      The Wil Hardesty series —

1. The Innocents (1995)
2. Bearing Secrets (1996)
3. The Ghosts of Morning (1998)
4. Blackheart Highway (1999)
5. Burning Moon (2003)