BJ Vinson is a private investigator and former police detective based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When BJ’s ex boyfriend Del comes to him for help, he approaches the case with mixed feelings. It seems that the rent boy who broke the two up is blackmailing Del with some racy photos of the two. What seems to be a relatively simple case at first eventually escalates into a deadly game of cat and mouse where everyone, including BJ’s new love interest, is a suspect.
This is a classic private eye whodunit that brings to mind several familiar archetypes. BJ combines the jaded-yet-still-slightly-romantic hard-boiled tough guy of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade with the almost overly-detailed narrative of Jack Webb’s Joe Friday. Of course, neither one of those characters was much for romance, and that’s what makes the character of BJ distinctive. Of course, it could be argued that BJ’s new lover Paul is not much less trouble than Sam Spade’s Miss Wonderly, but the relationship between the two adds an interesting layer to the mystery.
The mystery around which the story revolves is quite a good one. Several clever red herrings along the way will probably keep you from figuring out the real motives behind the case. When everything starts to unravel at the very end, this naturally becomes a real page turner. Several aspects of the case remain unclear up to the very end.
The main characters are complex and engaging. Even many of the minor characters are charmingly eccentric in their own individual ways. Not only are the people in the story well developed, so is the setting. The cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe are described in such detail that they become full blown characters in themselves.
I only recently found out about this series, and decided to read it from the start. This is definitely an excellent first installment, and I hope the next books live up to the promise.
“The Zozobra Incident” is available from Amazon.