Tag Archives: Crime Fiction

Detective By Day: Kellye Garrett

AN APPRECIATION

My previous post recommended Rachel Howzell Hall’s new novel, as well as her back catalogue (seriously, why are you waiting?). Another Black writer to feature on BestBub’s 100 Best Crime Novels Of All Time is Kellye Garrett. Eight years of working in Hollywood, including writing for the TV show Cold Case gave Kellye an insider’s view on the rat-race that is entertainment’s premier capital town. Like Rachel, Los Angeles is in Kellye’s heart, blood, and soul.

Kellye Garrett (Image: author’s website)

Her two books to date feature Dayna Anderson, an actress who was well known for being the face behind the Chubby Chicken commericals (I don’t think so, boo!), and is consistently almost recognised wherever she goes (Didn’t we go to high school together?). Now broke and unable to afford gas, Dayna has taken up residence in a room the size of a closet at her best friend Sienna’s apartment. She’s a proud woman who refuses to capitalise on her fame, instead she’s focusing on how she can save her parents’ home from going into foreclosure.

An opportunity arrives in the form of a billboard asking for information on the hit-and-run death of local shop worker Haley Joseph. As luck would have it, on the night of the incident, Dayna and her friends were witnesses to what would turn out to be murder. There’s a $15,000 reward offered for any imformation that leads to apprehension and conviction. So Dayna decides there and then to become an amateur sleuth. This is the premise for the first Detective By Day novel, Hollywood Homicide.

We are introduced to Dayna’s friends. Sienna I’ve mentioned briefly, but she’s a hoot. Chasing Instagram likes and trolling Twitter feeds for gossip, Sienna opens doors that were once held open for Dayna, as well as casting off her considerable collection of shoes and clothes to Dayna once she’s done with them. With an ego the size of a small planet, Sienna is ever-present at Dayna’s side, even when they fall out (which is a lot over the two books). Emme is more than just a computer nerd: she’s the anti-social twin sister of Oscar-nominated actress Toni Abrams, and deserves a series devoted to just her. Omari Grant is Dayna’s on-again-off-again boyfriend. Now the leading man of a cop show franchise, Omari and Dayna’s relationship hits more hurdles than an out-of-shape athlete, but the spark (once it hits) is dynamite. Completing the main cast is Aubrey S. Adams-Parker, an enigmatic ex-cop with a weird taste in orange reflector suits, who may or may not be in need of a partner.

And that’s not all. Add in Nina, Omari’s agent and (in book two, Hollywood Ending) a murder suspect, and The Voice at the other end of the police tip-line, the wonderful support cast is complete. Suspects come and go — sometimes permanently gone — but the core group doesn’t change over the two books.

Hollywood Ending gives us a front-row seat at the Silver Sphere Awards, where Omari is nominated as Best Actor. When Lyla Davis, a publicist for Silver Sphere is killed at an ATM robbery, Dayna and her team have a crack at solving it. It’s a more complex investigation than Hollywood Homicide, and when the situation calls for it, the potential for slapstick comedy, about-turns, mortal danger, and snappy dialogue is heightened to a fantastic level.

What I love about the Detective By Day series is its wit and freshness. Dayna Anderson takes her job seriously, but her sense of self-esteem nonetheless gets a bruising over the course of the two books’ pages. Her friends, though, are always there for her, and try to keep her out of harm’s way. Yes, Dayna needs the money, but she’s a fighter for truth and justice as well. She’s also very funny. In the midst of all the murder and mayhem, Dayna has a delightfully cynical attitude to all things Hollywood, but she loves it all the same.

The intended third book in the series, Hollywood Hack, is, according to Kellye’s website, still in draft, awaiting a new publishing deal. In the meantime, she’s working on a new novel. I await both breathlessly.

Hollywood Homicide: Paperback, 306 pages. Published August 8th 2017 by Midnight Ink

Hollywood Ending: Paperback, 312 pages. Published August 8th 2018 by Midnight Ink

And Now She’s Gone: Rachel Howzell Hall

Rachel Howzell Hall is a writer I introduced myself to last year. Featured on the crime writing website CrimeReads as an author to watch out for, in a genre typically dominated by white writers, and because I love a good series, I picked up the first novel in Rachel’s Detective Elouise (Lou) Horton’s quarter, Land of Shadows. Over the next year or so, I read all four and found myself a little in love with Horton’s voice and character. Possessing the traits a women needs to survive in the cut-throat world of policing, Lou Horton also carries with her a desire for justice, the love of family and friends, her own messy private life, and the pride of being a Black women in the streets of Los Angeles.

Rachel Howzell Hall (Image: Goodreads)

Four books in, with Rachel seemingly done with Lou for the time being, this talented writer wrote a stand-alone thriller in the vein of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, a beautifully paced and meticulous thriller called They All Fall Down. It was a change of scenery for Rachel, one I thoroughly enjoyed. She then followed it up with And Now She’s Gone.

Grayson Sykes works as a private investigator for Radar Consulting, and is charged with her first real case: find Isabel Lincoln, a woman with more secrets than an intelligence agency, a woman who very well might not want to be found. But Gray’s client is an acquaintance of her boss Nick, so she has to do her due diligence. Ian O”Donnell, Isabel’s not-so-distraught husband is more concerned about his missing dog than he is about his wife, leading Gray to think he’s hiding his own skeletons. A surprise meet-up with Isabel’s new best friend in a bar early in the story confirms Gray’s suspicions: Isabel is a victim of domestic abuse.

(Image: Goodreads)

Running parallel to the main story is a subplot about a woman called Natalie Dixon, herself on the run from an abusive relationship. Although it doesn’t take long for the reader to conclude that Natalie and Grayson are one and the same person, the complexities that Gray’s background bring to the hunt for Isabel Lincoln aren’t that simple to work out. It doesn’t take long for Gray’s two worlds to collide.

This is a novel about survival, and I think Rachel Howzell Hall’s protagonists wear this mantle in all of her books. In fact, Grason Sykes and Lou Horton could very well be close friends if they were ever to meet. They both share elements in their histories that have led them to become the strong women they are. Their successes come at a cost, but never to their humanity – which is important. When they’re on your side, they will not rest until the case is closed and the truth has been delivered.

And Now She’s Gone never goes where you expect it. It’s a literal page-turner, filled with suspense and surprise, and when I finished the book I immediately went on Twitter and asked Rachel for more. You probably will, too. It’s that good.

And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall (Forge Books, $27.99 hardcover, 384p., 9781250753175, September 22, 2020)

The Moonflower Murders

Since the start of the pandemic, I have found solace in books. Sudoku, too. But when I wasn’t cooking and baking for family, and trying to work out where a 9 went in box 3 of the grid, books have been my constant companions. Throughout 2020, no writer has kept me company more times than Anthony Horowitz.

A prolific writer in all forms of the art, Horowitz is known to all as the creator of classic TV shows like Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War, and has written a number of well received episodes of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. His YA adventure series featuring teenage spy Alex Rider recently premiered on Amazon in the form of a big budget adaptation. I haven’t read any of this series, but the Amazon show is a lot of fun and I hope for news of renewal soon. It’s worth your time.

I will examine Horowitz’s James Bond and Sherlock Homes novels at a later date, but for now I want to focus on The Moonflower Murders, his sequel to 2016’s Magpie Murders, both featuring publisher Susan Ryeland and, in a novel-within-a-novel twist, Atticus Pund. Pund features in a series of detective fiction edited by Ryeland for her publishing house, and is the creation of the now-deceased author Alan Conway. In Magpie Murders, Conway’s unpublished manuscript is the basis of an elaborate whodunnit, and is replete with wordplay, hidden clues, murder and mayhem, ultimately ending in a face-off in a burning building with the murderer. It’s a lot, but by God is it satisfying! I urge you to read Magpie Murders before starting Moonflower.

Anthony Horowitz

Following the events of the first book, Susan Ryeland now lives in Crete with her Greek partner and together they run a Bed & Breakfast. Ryeland thinks of home a lot, and while she loves her partner very much, they’re under considerable financial and personal strain. So it’s no wonder Ryeland jumps at the chance of solving another mystery when an English couple arrive at the B&B, asking for her help in finding their missing daughter who was last seen reading an Atticus Pund novel. The couple, who own a hotel in England, itself the scene of a murder some years back, worry for their daughter’s safety, and because Conway himself was a guest at the hotel, they hope Ryeland can offer assistance. She agrees, mainly because she’s a sucker for a mystery, but also because she’s been offered a cash reward plus expenses, and she needs the money for the business.

The book the missing girl was reading is Atticus Pund Takes The Case, and the entire short novel forms the centrepiece of this complex tale. Horowitz takes obvious delight in putting Ryeland and his readers through the mill in the pages of The Moonflower Murders. Alan Conway’s disdain for humans and human nature is prevalent throughout the narrative, and although he’s dead (this is not a spoiler; he’s very much dead at the beginning of Magpie Murders), his presense is very much palpable. Ryeland has to untangle a mystery that once again places her in mortal danger.

The Moonflower Murders is a delightful read, one I gobbled up in a couple of sittings almost as soon as it was published. It’s twisty, it contains more red herrings than you can bake a fish pie with, and even manages to save the perfect surprise for the epilogue. It’s the perfect blend of classic Golden Age detective fiction and contemporary settings. Dame Agatha would be proud, as would Detective Chief Superintendant Foyle. I’m not sure what the denizens of Midsomer would make of it, though.