"Not that making a living as a writer in any genre is easy, but it must be triply difficult working in the crime/detective genre if only because there are just so many novels out there. Everyone who has ever seen The Maltese Falcon on TCM after a hard night of it at the bar seems to think, 'Hey! I can do this!' And, let's be honest here, most can't. For a reviewer, trying to find the few who can is an enterprise filled with the same air-headed delusion as tossing a bag of bread crumbs out on a Venetian piazza in the hopes that a pheasant will swoop in amidst the pigeons.
Joseph Hirsch's Flash Blood may not quite be a pheasant, but the reader will be metaphorically dining on something better than a skinny squab. Hirsch succeeds with the two critical elements needed for an entertaining private eye thriller. First, his detective is worth watching. James Arklow is a P.I., a professor of criminology at a Cincinnati tech school and a published crime novelist as well. What works particularly well in that combination is that when Arklow takes on an apprentice named James Bender, the former's teaching skills come to the forefront, placing the reader in the position of an eager pupil.
Secondly, Flash Blood's plot has an intriguing hook. Our man Arklow has $100,000 cash dropped on him by an eager funster named Dan Maple. Dan hires Arklow to locate one Thaddeus Smith because Smith's blood seems to be composed of a natural opiate. Maple has previously injected himself with Smith's blood and wants more of it. Now, before you go snorting, 'Piffle!' or your own expletive of choice, what if Smith just wanted Maple to think the former's arteries were the Golden Goose of hallucinogens?
So, off we go on the search for the missing Smith. This may seem a small matter, but it is a real breath of fresh air that for once a detective novel is set in 'real' America cities, like Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, rather than Exotic Locale TM. Hirsch clearly knows the terrain and that lends Flash Blood an air of assuredness that is lacking in those that do their research via TripAdvisor.
Now before we start shining up the awards, there are a couple of minor flaws in Flash Blood that, as usual, make me grumble about why on earth don't all writers get an editor or at least a qualified proofreader? Either would have caught a line like this: 'I hid the Walther under the pillow, where I hoped the maid wouldn’t find it.' Well, I don't know what kind of hotels you stay in, but if the maid service doesn't notice a chunky black rod of gun metal while making the bed, I certainly will be making dark observations on the How Was Your Stay? card. Thankfully, there are only a few of these clunkers, which is why I can clearly recommend Flash Blood for your reading pleasure. "