Friday, July 15, 2011

LIQUID SMOKE by Jeff Shelby

San Diego P.I. Noah Braddock is approached by Darcy Gill, a lawyer representing a man who claims to be Noah's estranged father. Russell Simington is a hardened criminal on death row at San Quentin, but Darcy, passionately against the death penalty, takes the chance that last-minute revelations to Noah may help Simington's case.

Having never known his father, Noah decides on one visit to appease Darcy as well as his own curiosity. Strangely, however, Darcy does not fly to San Francisco with Noah as planned. Noah visits Simington and returns to San Diego only to find Darcy at his home, brutally murdered.

Noah Braddock debuted as a hip, wisecracking P.I. in the mold of Elvis Cole in the 2005 novel Killer Swell. After a second book, Wicked Break (2006), Dutton dropped the series, and Braddock might have gotten lost in Cole's shadow. Fortunately, Shelby persisted, and with the help of agent Stacia Decker, sold Liquid Smoke to Tyrus Books. Thanks to FSB Associates, I got to read an advance copy.

Noah begins the book as the same wisecracking tough guy, but Liquid Smoke is a true noir in that, try as he might, Noah cannot escape his role in events. Similarly, Shelby's chapters are short, keeping me turning pages, caught up in Noah's mixed emotions, keeping the brooding to a minimum. The result is Shelby's breakout book.

Liquid Smoke's publication date is August 24.

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