by Jonathan Charles Bruce
Kindle Edition, 204 pg.
Scarlet River Press, 2016
Read: November 7 – 8, 2016
They were all cheap, terrible beers that screamed more of desperation than any kind of desirability. Not that I could ever really tell the difference between the cheap and quality stuff, except that cheap tasted like unfiltered gutter water and quality usually like uncooked bread juice. People would usually counter that beer was an acquired taste that you get used to before you learn to want it, at which point I would suggest that what they just described was essentially culinary Stockholm Syndrome.
I am a hit at parties.
My appreciation for this one was pretty much ensured within the first page or so — Monica Deimos’s character grabbed me that quickly. I can’t promise you will, but this character’s voice was so strong, so fun. This voice . . . I haven’t clicked with a voice like I did with this since, I’m not sure, maybe Mark Watney? If I quoted every pith/insightful/chuckle-worthy line that I wanted to, I’d probably get sued for copyright infringement. I know, a tough, quippy, self-deprecating, cynical female detective(-ish) character isn’t exactly new, but Bruce just nails the voice on a consistent basis. Monica may not be unique on that front, but she’s really well done.
Deimos works for this firm called Washed Hands, who are break-up specialists. If you want to/need to end a relationship with someone who just may flip out, get violent, refuse to listen, whatever — you hire them and one of their rejection counselors will make sure that everything works out. Monica Deimos is about the best they have — until one day she enters a client’s home to find the soon-to-be-dumped very murdered. Monica then finds herself very framed for this murder. Things get rolling from there.
She’s on the run from the cops (almost getting nabbed a few times), dead tired and with few people she can trust. She decides that the IT guy from Washed Hands, Jasper, is trustworthy (probably) and could help out. So the two of them team-up to find out the real killer’s identity and to clear Monica before tis’ too late.
Jasper is almost a stereotypical nerd — but there’s a little more to him. Some of the others in the office are probably just what they appear, but you can’t be too careful. Or so Monica thinks. She’s abrasive, socially awkward, and desperate enough to try anything — the frame job was good, and she’s pretty sure that she can’t beat it. Thankfully, Jasper has faith enough for both of them. I really liked him — actually, I really liked Monica, too, beyond the voice. There weren’t a lot of other characters developed that well (little time for that with Monica on the run), but there was potential with all of them.
This novel was very well constructed and plotted — enough humor and enough excitement to keep you engaged. I guessed the whodunit pretty early, and came close to the motive, too. But I wouldn’t have figured the how until about 2 or 3 sentences before Monica did. Bruce pulled off some very clever storytelling there.
Things I would enjoy seeing in future novels, if that’s what Bruce is thinking: More at Washed Hands — I can’t believe he’s got this great concept and uses it so little; More with Jasper (perhaps independently of Monica); More Monica — with Jasper, at Washed Hands, without Jasper, after Washed Hands, I don’t care, I just want to read more of her.
I don’t think I can say much more without reveling too much, so I won’t say much more at all.. Clever story, good characters, told in a way to keep me glued to the page, and a conclusion that I almost saw coming but couldn’t come close to predicting. Really can’t ask for much more.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from Scarlet River Press in exchange for this post and my honest take on the book — thanks, Scarlet River!