Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Mysterious San Francisco Redux

Blood Relations
by Jonathan Moore
Mariner Books 2019

Vanishing in the Haight
by Max Tomlinson
Oceanview Publishing 2019

It has been quite a while since I reviewed any mystery novels set in San Francisco.

The day before the start of the Covd-19 restrictions I had picked up a whole batch of books from my library but I had finally run out of the unread ones. Fortunately, it recently started a curbside pickup service where I could order materials online and pick them up a few days later. I was hungry for some ‘fresh meat’ from the literary butcher-shop AKA The San Francisco Mystery Genre.

The first novel I consumed after my hiatus was by an author whom I had previously read—Jonathan Moore. Moore’s work always has modern technological twists in them and Blood Relations is no exception. The somewhat sleazy private investigator Lee Crowe, while working on an unrelated case, comes across the corpse of a beautiful young woman embedded in the roof of a Rolls-Royce in the Tenderloin district of SF. Crowe isn’t above exploiting someone’s personal tragedy to make a few bucks; he takes a picture of the victim and sells it to a tabloid publication. He soon regrets that action when he becomes ensnared in a bizarre plot involving a rich dowager, mistaken identities, a movie star and some gruesome thugs. Written in first-person singular with a linear time-line, it easy to follow the plot. Its San Francisco and California settings are well handled, almost cinematic at times. It has been said that Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest was the first James Bond movie; this book fits perfectly in that genre. Blood Relations is a delicious change of pace—like good gastropub cuisine paired with a fine wine.

The other book I got was Max Tomlinson’s Vanishing in the Haight, a Colleen Hays Mystery. This is the start of a new series featuring a woman who had been recently released from prison (on dubious charges) and who is trying to break into the private investigation racket in San Francisco in 1978. This is a very straightforward and realistic, which is another way of saying dull. All the pieces fit, but the leaden prose and its predictability made Vanishing a bit of a slog for me. Greasy burger, soggy fries served with a flat Coke.

See all the FITK San Francisco posts here.

By Professor Batty


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