Perfect Crime Books is rapidly becoming a force in the mystery small press field. They’ve published a couple of books by Bob Randisi, and now the second entry in a fine new private eye series by Edward Cline is about to come out. PRESENCE OF MIND is the second novel to feature New York PI Chess Hanrahan, who narrates in classic private eye fashion. This novel finds Hanrahan investigating the murder of a fellow PI, the head of an agency who had taken on a case Hanrahan was too busy to handle. Because of that, Hanrahan feels a certain responsibility to find out what happened.
Like a number of other novels, PRESENCE OF MIND is set in the relatively recent past, in this case the late Eighties, just as the computer industry is about to explode, and the case that got Hanrahan’s friend murdered involves an up-and-coming computer company. The complex plot has a lot more twists than that, however, and ultimately Hanrahan finds himself trying to untangle strands that involve political negotiations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, blackmail, business chicanery, and a deadly secret that goes all the way back to the Korean War. There’s also a considerable amount of discussion about intellectualism and political philosophy, a couple of subjects that normally would have me yawning in a hurry, but Cline does a good job of making it all perk along nicely.
Chess Hanrahan is an appealing protagonist, smart enough to hold his own with those who consider themselves his intellectual and moral superiors, wry enough not to take himself or anybody else too seriously, and tough enough to handle the occasional action scene. Edward Cline writes very well, and if you’re a fan of private eye fiction, you ought to check out his work, including this novel.