|Posted on July 7, 2013 at 10:50 PM|
It's been a dozen or so years since Vincent Zandri first introduced Jack "Keeper" Marconi to the crime fiction world in As Catch Can, later retitled The Innocent. That's quite a wait for the third and latest in the series, The Guilty, released in July 2013. But it's been well worth it.
This time around, former prison warden and private investigator Jack Marconi is hired to investigate what might be a case of attempted murder. A woman engaged to a spoiled playboy winds up in the hospital with a suspicious head wound. Here's the twist. The playboy is into some crazy sex kinks that may point to how the woman became injured. Complicating matters is that the playboy's father is involved with some high-buck business deals in the area.
Zandri is in fine form throughout the novel. Those familiar with his writing will recognize his signature tight pacing, cheeky humor, plots based on true events and damned characters charred from one too many hot glimpses of hell. Once again, his prose is accessible to the casual crime fiction reader, yet still plenty satisfying to those hardcore fans of the genre. It's a great read. I soaked in that sucker in less than 24 hours.
But it's hard to review the third Marconi novel without putting The Guilty into context of Zandri's other projects. Since Godchild, the second in the Marconi series, Zandri produced a series of novels featuring private detective Dick Moonlight. Moonlight is crass and a bit of a womanizer, part of what makes him a bastard of a character - albeit one who can hold a reader's attention.
All that time writing Moonlight must've rubbed off on Zandri's revisitation of the Marconi character in The Guilty. The stoic and depressed one-foot-in-the-grave Marconi of the first two novels now resembles more of the brash, chauvenistic Moonlight.
From a writing process standpoint, this makes some sense. Zandri, as with any writer, isn't the same person at the keyboard as a dozen years ago.
From the reader's view, this Marconi might feel unfamiliar. Fans of the first two novels might wonder how Marconi got his proverbial groove back. Whether readers chalk it up to Marconi progressing in his closure following the death of his wife or just a retooling of the series, it's not a bad thing. It's just noticeable.
Another thing readers will notice is the Fifty Shades of Grey references. Fifty serves as inspiration to fulfill the kinky fetishes of the playboy character, serving as the template for his sex dungeon. It's my hunch this is part compelling plot point and part marketing juice to sell the novel (hey, I work in publishing, this is how I think).
But readers shouldn't be put off by the Fifty references in The Guilty. This isn't a rip-off, and Fifty is only mentioned briefly.
No, this is a series that can stand on its own. And with a fresh, episodic approach to the Marconi crime novels, I have a suspicion this isn't the private detective's last jaunt. Hop on board The Guilty or start at the beginning with The Innocent and Godchild. You'll quickly find out why nobody's e-reader has only one Zandri novel on it.
Click here to get The Guilty for the Kindle from Amazon.