I received Harry Starke by Blair Howard from the authors mailing list and agreed to submit a review. I found it to be a solid detective story, formulaic, but an entertaining five-hour read. If you liked it, sit back for a lot of entertaining reading. There are 12 books in the series. This is Book One. All are available singly for free through Kindle unlimited. The first nine books are available in boxed sets of three, also available through KU for free. Mystery fans, this will occupy your time. I found this book, Book One, too predictable. Although Harry Starke, the protagonist not the book, is well developed, the way the character is developed does not seem to me to be a consistent and believable character. The story and the mystery remain interesting, but the central character put me off. The reader meets Harry in the first few pages as a beautiful and classy Tabitha Willard runs towards him in the middle of the night on a bridge but, just before meeting him, decides to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge. Harry initially feels bad because his attempt to save her failed. How such a classy woman could have been in the low-class typical bar that Harry liked confused him, but he had seen her arguing earlier with low-life types in the bar. It looked like she was running from them but now was dead. Harry Starke is interested.
Harry Starke headed a private detective agency. It had nine employees, five investigators, three staff, and himself. He had not always been a private detective but had been a police officer of an indeterminate rank. As an archetypal detective character, he was no longer a police officer because he employed methods that pushed legal limits to extremes. While a police officer, he had a partner, now police Lt. Kate Gazzara, a necessary element to the story so that Harry could have access to police databases on a strictly informal basis with the acquiescence of Kate. Harry always likes his alcohol, throughout the day, and frequently to excess. Harry had a long-running affair with former partner Kate and is faithful to her except when he isn’t. Harry is the bad guy we don’t want our daughters to meet. Can there be any redeeming features to this man?
The answer is yes and the reason why I didn’t want to read the entire novel (although I did). In addition to taking on cases, delegating parts of them to his employees but solving everything himself, maintaining a complex relationship with Kate but still having several hours to dally with others, and unapologetically maintaining a time-consuming alcohol dependency; Harry cooks. This is not frozen TV dinner style. In several instances after he invites Kate to his apartment, he has time to go to the market and buy salmon fillet (no cholesterol) fresh vegetables and wine that does not come out of a box. Harry knows wine vintages; he knows varieties of alcoholic drinks and liqueurs. He also seems to know just what drinks will impress Kate or the dalliance du jour. And coffee is French Press. He even cooks interesting meals for himself when alone. It’s a good thing he doesn’t have to clean, it provides employment for the housekeeper. This just doesn’t fit a bad-boy image. Then there are the coincidences that at least are not related to this wanna-be Master Chef.
Harry wants to solve the mystery of Tabitha’s death; was it suicide or murder? The story will wind its way through labyrinths of political intrigue, a rather libertine look at sex, the story of a drug runner trying to become respectable, money laundering, off-shore accounts, and some interesting computer technology that should hold computer geek interest. And all of that is on top of complex human relationship portrayals. I was particularly taken with the character of Lt. Kate. Although not well developed in this book, there are lots of opportunities to explore her character in following editions. I believe I will give this series one more (book) chance just to see how Kate is doing.
And finally, Harry’s life is just too coincidentally easy. There is a friendly Federal Judge when Harry needs a warrant so that Kate can legally carry on her investigation. When Harry needs to meet a U.S. Senator in Washington D. C. on short notice, he just calls dad and borrows the Lear jet. When he needs access by appointment to a high political official, he calls dad who doesn’t mind setting up a guaranteed appointment by giving son Harry a check for USD 2 700 so the politician will agree to meet Harry.
There is enough “good stuff” in this book to make it an entertaining read. The “stuff” that is negative to me is enough to make me want to read another book in the series and see if anything gets better or more realistic. Because the writer has captured my interest in a way that I feel trapped into reading further, I gave this three Amazon stars.