Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mystery Book Review: The Dirt-Brown Derby by Ed Lynskey

Mysterious ReviewsMysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, has written our review of The Dirt-Brown Derby by Ed Lynskey. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.The Dirt-Brown Derby by Ed Lynskey

The Dirt-Brown Derby by Ed Lynskey
A Frank Johnson Mystery

Mundania Press (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-8253-0510-1 (1594262322)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8253-0510-8 (9781594262326)
Publication Date: July 2006
List Price: $12.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): PI Frank Johnson is hired by Mary Taliaferro, a wealthy aristocrat owning a horse estate near Middleburg, Virginia.

Mary's teen-age daughter Emily has died in a riding tragedy. The local law enforcement says it’s an accident. Mary thinks it’s murder.

Frank is broke and the money Mary offers is too good to pass up, but his case quickly becomes more complicated when the stable manager is murdered one day after he starts his investigation.

Frank soon discovers that there is much more going on here, and he is determined to get to the truth, even if it kills him!

Review: Ed Lynskey's debut mystery, The Dirt-Brown Derby, introduces private investigator Frank Johnson, and is sure to please fans of hard-boiled detective fiction.

After being offered an obscene amount of money to take a case ("Let's set your retainer at, oh, say $50,000." "What if I say no?" "$200,000 is my final offer"), PI Frank Johnson is persuaded to look into the death of Emily Taliaferro, the daughter of Mary Taliaferro, a Virginia horse breeder who is convinced she was murdered. The cause of death: her head was crushed by a thoroughbred. Initially, Frank tends to agree with the police who rule the young woman's death a tragic accident, but when the horse's trainer is found dead the next day, he's convinced to dig deeper.

Lynskey doesn't waste any time getting to the action in The Dirt-Brown Derby. Within the first few paragraphs, Frank is confronted by local toughs who are willing and able to show him he's not welcome in their town. After putting them in their place, he then tests the limits of police tolerance. All this suggests that, from the author's perspective, actions speak louder than words, at least in terms of character development. It's quite clear from the first chapter what kind of PI Frank is: tough, uncompromising, willing to bend a few rules in the interest of the truth (and at times just to see if he can get away with it), and more than a little cynical.

What's also clear from the first chapter is that there isn't much of a mystery here. Most readers will know who killed Emily right away, and can probably make an educated guess at the motive as well. The reason to continue reading is to enjoy Lynskey's portrayal of Frank Johnson, his descriptive, noir-ish style of writing, and the colorful cast of characters he's populated the book with. What would have elevated this book into the top tier is some unexpected plot twist instead of the telegraphed conclusion provided.

Special thanks to Ed Lynskey for providing a copy of The Dirt-Brown Derby for this review.

Review Copyright © 2007 Hidden Staircase Mystery Books

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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