Da Mack is back!
Okay, she’s back minus one main character–but the loss is hardly noticeable, as this fifth installment of the popular Charlie Mack Motown Mystery series makes a brilliant substitution. The other elements, however, are all in place and operating like the sleek, well-oiled Detroit machine Head has constructed. Fans won’t be disappointed in Find Me When I’m Lost, and it’s also a dandy place for the newbie to start.
Charlie receives a frantic midnight call from Pamela, her ex-husband Franklin’s current wife. Franklin is missing, but that’s probably because he’s been charged with his brother-in-law’s murder. Of course, Charlie knows he didn’t do it, but she has no idea where he is or how to find him. The police and his father-in-law are convinced of Franklin’s guilt, but Charlie puts the weight of Mack Investigations behind her efforts to uncover the truth, leading to some twists, some turns, and some surprising conclusions.
One surprise here is the departure of Gil Acosta, who (along with Don), was a mainstay of Mack Investigations. Actually, that was foretold at the end of the fourth book. What’s surprising is the promotion of capable, highly organized office manager Judy into an investigative role. She acquits herself well, too, bringing some interesting perspective to the client interviews she does. Her easy banter complements the crew well, and the reader gets the feeling she’ll be settling in for the long haul. And although that’s it for the personnel changes, this book shows a bit more of the relationship between Charlie and Mandy.
And, of course, Head’s local color is tremendous, from the legal student/pole dancer named Cursory Brief to a sumptuous description of the pierogies at Polonia’s in Hamtramck, a delicacy I remember well, especially washed down with a 16 oz. Zywiec porter and a shot of raspberry syrup. But never mind the snacks. Can we talk about how easily this book slips down? It has great pacing and never crowds you up with extraneous detail. If Head mentions it twice, pay attention – it’s gonna show up later. The action sequences move with assurance and authority, and nothing feels forced or inorganic.
In short, Cheryl Head and Bywater Books come up with another winner in the Charlie Mack series. I don’t think they need any prodding for a sixth book, but they should consider themselves prodded.
© 2020 Jerry L. Wheeler