SPEAK OF THE DEVIL - Richard Hawke
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL is the first Fritz Malone book - some may remember a review of COLD DAY IN HELL a while ago. Interestingly enough, it wasn't until I'd finished SPEAK OF THE DEVIL that I realised it was the earlier book in the series.
I've got to say right up front I like Fritz Malone. I don't really know why - hard-bitten / soft-hearted / wise cracking PI's with hearts of gold and bodies of steel are - well dangerously close to cliched and they can be desperately boring, but Hawke gets away with it for some reason. Goodness knows how really - Malone's girlfriend Margo is there to join in the wise-cracking, quick with the disapproval, playing the part of the straight "man" to Malone's erratic persona. Margo's father is the old timer, hard man in his own right, taught Malone everything he knows, ended up in a wheelchair, ready with advice and a sounding board. Malone has a coterie of sidekicks who step up, step in, kick, shoot and watch his back.
So what does work - well there's an interesting story at the heart of SPEAK OF THE DEVIL - why on earth would some loser / nobody / shoot up the Thanksgiving Parade? Was the cop that was shot dead a lucky shot or was the real target the somewhat famous actress girlfriend of the Mayor? Why, when Malone corners the shooter in a park is he bundled away from the scene? Why did the shooter turn up dead? Who is threatening the Mayor and what does a two bit local drug dealer and thug have to do with all of this?
There's also some of Malone's family background fleshed out a bit in SPEAK OF THE DEVIL - who he is and how his extended family works (or doesn't) is touched upon and that helps to turn Malone into slightly more than just a wise-cracking hard man.
Of course you're going to have to like him as is. Hawke presents Malone very much as is - take it or leave it - he is what he is. Maybe that's what works most about the book. Wise-cracking / hard man / hard boiled / cynical PI's are us. Now, let's get on with it.
It all begins on a perfect Manhattan morning: a gunman's bullets shatter the festival atmosphere of the world-famous Thanksgiving Day parade. Only one man in the crowd sees it happening but, fortunately for the unsuspecting throng gathered for the parade, he's the right man for the moment.
Meet Fritz Malone, New York's sharpest PI - an outsider with an insider's nose for City Hall politics, and a man who knows the rules well enough to work around them.