Monday, December 09, 2019

Two Shades of Crazy - Christine Matthews

The private eye novel is my favorite type of mystery yarn and has been ever since I discovered Michael Shayne, Donald Lam, and Bertha Cool at the bookmobile, followed fairly soon after by the Continental Op, Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer, and Shell Scott. Thankfully, there are still quite a few writers who love private eye novels, too, and continue to write them.

Case in point, a brand new novel from Christine Matthews, who has garnered a lot of readers and critical acclaim for her mysteries, thrillers, horror, and Western tales. TWO SHADES OF CRAZY is set in the Southwest, in Laughlin and Las Vegas, Nevada, and Flagstaff, Arizona, and Matthews does a fine job of capturing the setting.

Gloria Watson is a PI from Chicago who has relocated to Laughlin and works out of an office in her apartment, strictly a one-woman outfit with no secretary or assistants. She does mostly background checks and security work, but a more high-profile case comes her way when a potential client hires her to clear the name of a woman who has just been convicted of murdering her lover. It seems that Gloria’s client was obsessed with the woman, although he had no romantic relationship with her, and was outside the house where the murder took place, watching her. He didn’t see the murderer himself, but he knows she didn’t fire the fatal shots.

Sensing that something is off about her client, Gloria investigates him as much as she does the murder, and she uncovers surprising information about him that makes her debate whether she even wants to take the case. But then he dies under suspicious circumstances as well, and she feels duty-bound to get to the truth about a case that turns quite complex for one where a defendant has already been tried and convicted. Not too surprisingly, Gloria herself soon becomes the target of a killer . . .

TWO SHADES OF CRAZY is a top-notch tale of deception and tangled emotions. Instead of making Gloria Watson a first-person narrator, Matthews decides to tell her story in third person, giving Gloria a slight sense of coolness and separation from the reader that works very well while still allowing her to be a sympathetic and likable protagonist. At times the twists and turns of the plot reminded me of something that Perry Mason or Cool and Lam would try to untangle, and that’s a good thing. All in all, TWO SHADES OF CRAZY is an excellent debut in what I hope will be a continuing series. I really enjoyed it.


Todd Mason said...

As the first PI series I started to read regularly (since the Op and Marlowe are pretty short series, and I read Archer and quasi-PI McGee in a staggered fashion) was Sharon McCone, this sounds pretty much up my alley as well. Thanks for the pointer...well, I suppose we can count the Fletch series, too.

Adventuresfantastic said...

I will check this one out. Thanks.