James Harper describes Kentucky Vice as a suspense crime thriller. That is an accurate description with an emphasis on suspense. Although it is part of a series titled Evan Buckley Thrillers Book 2, I found no problems appreciating this novel without having read Book 1 first. Amazon sells the book for USD 2.99 or offers it as a read-for-free on Kindle Unlimited. After reading Book 2, I want to read Book 3 because (surprise) there is a cliffhanger at the end of Book 2. This is in no way a spoiler. Kentucky Vice is a self-contained pleasant reading experience all by itself with many moving parts (subplots). But there is that one, small unresolved matter that I want to know about. Bring on Book 3.
For Jesse Springer, the question was: Which came first, the credit card bill or the photos? He didn’t have to decide. The photos arrived at a most inopportune time while wifey was descending the stairs for morning coffee. First, hide the photos, then intercept the credit card bill. Diane was not to know about this. It would be hard to justify the thirty-thousand-dollar charge on his bill. Photographic evidence proved the existence of the two women plus Jesse in an intimate meeting. Telling Diane that he had gotten two for the price of one might be a last-minute strategy. But for that price, Jesse wished he could remember anything about the experience.
Jesse recruits friend and private detective Evan Buckley to chase down what happened. This begins the recruitment of the cast of characters that will interact to explain this interesting scam. Evan must trace the credit card and visit the club where the unremembered action took place. The reader quickly learns that a drug was involved, one so powerful that victim memory is erased. Jesse was not the first victim. Drugging wealthy patrons so that they could be posed in intimate situations was a staple money-making method at Chi Chi’s. Samantha, assistant manager, and all-around pimp and sadist would then charge the client’s credit card for as much as the market would bear. Pay the bill or receive unwanted publicity. No complaints, no crime.
With setting in place, the reader will meet many characters who seem to have shifting values as they interact to either profit or seek forgiveness for their past actions. Gina is one of the girls at Chi Chi’s. As innocent as any part-time stripper (with occasional benefits for special customers) Gina is working her way through school and is looking to leave the life of sleaze behind. She wished she had not discovered the scam. She felt morally bound to report the activity she considered criminal. Her colleague, Destiny, didn’t feel bad about what she was doing, she was supporting a powerful Corvette. She had no intention of leaving the business but also had no intention of someone hurting the innocent Gina. Samantha, more of a madam, had no regrets about anything at all. She loved the opportunity for occasional torture and even the less frequent opportunity for murder. Tony D’Amato was a boss who had unique interests and talents. He was stereotypically guilty just due to his name.
Into all this ride the forces of good. Evan wants to help his friend Jesse but has a few other things going on. There are the unsolicited any mysterious emails alluding to the location of Sarah, his missing wife. Sister Charlotte has hired him to find out if her husband Mitch was cheating on her. Family ties and obligations set him on paths he did not want to go. Evan needs help in his investigation from former female cop partner. Will there be a romance? There is almost a bromance between Evan and local cop Angel. Sure, they had to work together but how closely? Angel would not mind getting closer to Gina or Destiny, while Evan seems to have a more vicarious interest in the two lovely reluctant professionals. And then there is the reluctant Forrest. In fact, there are two of them. Are they innocent businessmen, victims, or guilty conspirators?
With so much crime and so many unsavory characters, I was surprised the story could be told with so little objectionable vocabulary. This is a safe book as far as sex, violence, and bad language. There are lots of surprises, most of them about characters and their shifting values (not all of which go in a positive direction. This is solid storytelling with which to fill a few hours. I gave it four Amazon stars and look forward to reading Book 3.