COLD DAY IN HELL - Richard Hawke
Fans of wise cracking, hard men with hearts of gold style Private Investigators are going to be very pleased to catch up with Fritz Malone in Richard Hawke's second book COLD DAY IN HELL.
Set in New York, COLD DAY IN HELL opens up with famous late-night TV star, Marshall Fox on trial for two grisly murders. Fritz Malone could care less about the trial, but when one of Fox's former lovers is murdered in her apartment using a signature piece from the first two murders, Malone gets interested. Firstly because this killing is just across the street from Malone's girlfriend Margo, and secondly because he knew Robin Burrell was scared - she'd spoken to him twice about threats she had been receiving.
The NYPD were convinced that Fox was the guilty party in the first two murders, but Malone finds himself teamed up with them trying to work out if the Burrell killing is a copycat, or is the wrong man on trial. Digging around in Fox's past discovers an unexpected secret life for this down home, happy go lucky cowboy figure.
COLD DAY IN HELL is set, obviously, in New York, and Malone is a very New York - been there, done that, seen it all - lone wolf type of guy, with just enough contacts on the dark side to do what has to be done. His relationship with Margo is long-term but they rub up against each other, just like many other long-term couples. Whilst Malone is very much the wise cracking PI with a conscience and a heart of gold, luckily that characterisation stops just short of being sanctimonious and is no where near as cliched and, frankly, annoying, as it can be.
The book uses an interesting 3 act kind of layout, with the central act going back to the lead up to the murders after a bit of a cliffhanger at the end of the first act. That method worked in this example, raising the temperature whilst you wondered what the outcome of the cliff hanger would be, and keeping the pace of the book moving whilst filling in the back story. The inclusion of NYPD officers spread the focus. In particular Megan Lamb, just returned to duty after the murder of her life partner, she's struggling with the guilt and her mixed feelings about killing Helen's murderer. This gave the whole story less of a self-involved, self-obsessed, Private Investigator against the world feeling and added another level of interest and, whilst Megan is, in her own way self-obsessed and self-involved, the reasons for that are different / more reflective.
Whilst not normally being much of a fan of that lone wolf style of PI, in COLD DAY IN HELL, it worked. Sure there's a lot of rushing around waving guns in the air, which bores this reader rigid, but the character of Fritz is just human enough to be interesting, the layout of the book was unusual and thus engaging, and the inclusion of focus on people other than just Fritz opened the whole story out, creating an interesting, enjoyable book.
In the stew and dazzle of New York City, savvy, irreverent Fritz Malone–who Susan Isaacs called “the perfect balance of noir P.I. and decent guy”–is embroiled in a string of grisly murders that drags him behind the lurid headlines into the tangled affairs of some the city’s most beautiful people and their ugly truths.
When two women linked with charismatic late-night TV personality Marshall Fox are found brutally slain in Central Park, Fox becomes the prime suspect and is charged with the murders. At the tabloid trial, one of Fox’s ex-lovers, Robin Burrell, is called to testify–and is instantly thrust into the media’s harsh spotlight. Shaken by a subsequent onslaught of hate mail, Robin goes to Fritz Malone for help. Malone has barely begun to investigate when Robin is found sadistically murdered in her Upper West Side brownstone, hands and feet shackled and a shard of mirror protruding from her neck.
But it’s another gory detail that confounds both Malone and Megan Lamb, the troubled NYPD detective officially assigned to the case. Though Fox is in custody the third victim’s right hand has been placed over her heart and pinned with a four-inch nail, just as in the killings he’s accused of. Is this a copycat murder, or is the wrong man on trial?
Teaming up with Detective Lamb, Malone delves deeper into Fox’s past, unpeeling the layers of the media darling’s secret life and developing an ever-increasing list of suspects for Robin’s murder. When yet another body turns up in Central Park, the message is clear: Get too close to Fox and get ready to die.
And Malone is getting too close.