Murder in the Irish Channel – Greg Herren (Bold Strokes Books)

Buy it now from Bold Strokes Books

Greg Herren’s mysteries, whether he’s writing Scotty Bradley
or Chanse MacLeod, are always entertaining, fast-paced, and exuberant.
Moreover, when you purchase one, you know exactly what you’re getting—a twisty
plot you can still follow, reliable characters, and a taste of New Orleans. Murder
in the Irish Channel
is a perfect example.

Jonny O’Neill is a rising young MMA fighter with a new bride
and a baby on the way—not to mention a mother who’s gone missing. Mona O’Neill
was a widowed church activist fighting to keep her local parish open. So why
does she have a check for 50 grand from a local developer in her desk drawer?
And who killed her other son, Robby? These are only a few of the questions
Chanse, along with his stripper/secretary Abby, has to find the answers to
before he can find Mona.

The Scotty Bradley mysteries have a much larger cast to keep
track of, so the simplicity and narrowing of the number of characters here is a
good change of pace and allows for a deepening of Chanse as he solves the
mystery. We get a glimpse of his trailer trash roots, which also shows in his
veiled contempt for Jonny, who hasn’t strayed far from the same path despite
the money his mother got in the settlement from her late husband’s employer.
His wife, Heather, is also an interesting exercise in redneck living—a foul
mouthed brat as canny as she is cranky.

But this wouldn’t be a Greg Herren book without some local
flavor, and Herren gets it right, from the weather to the food to the locales.
I count myself lucky to be a frequent visitor to New Orleans and have some
knowledge of its geography, so I can account for its veracity. Katrina, as
usual, hovers like a spectre over the plot, providing opportunities for some
characters and sealing the fates of others well in advance of Mona’s
disappearance.

Herren hits the ground running plotwise, pausing only for
breath and recaps before plunging ahead into the next piece of the puzzle. His
writing is economical, retaining a fine sense of detail that lingers long
enough to register but never calls attention to itself. Wisely, he’s learned
that the best way to tell a story is to get everyone on stage and let them take
over. You never once see the author’s hand, even when it’s placed in the small
of your back, diverting your attention from the only possible solution.

Murder in the Irish Channel is a most worthwhile
entry into the Chanse MacLeod catalog. But, be warned, these mysteries are most
addictive.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler

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