Hello readers and welcome to the seventh entry of this year’s Reading List. As mentioned in a previous entry, right now I am mainly focused on my backlog of “old white dude” authors since setting aside the Reading List last year. However, last time reading a “cozy” mystery got me in the mood to continue in the genre and so this time I picked up one I had been meaning to get to for ages: Harlan Coben’s 1995 first entry in his Myron Bolitar series, Deal Breaker.
I had been interested in Coben ever since reading an overview of his books in Harper’s some years ago and was lucky enough to find a paperback copy of Deal Breaker at the bookstore where I used to work. This was as hard boiled as books get, with a difference being that the main character is not just an investigator but a sports agent to boot. The story revolves around a missing woman named Kathy Culver and the clues that pop up that seem to point to her not being dead after all. The cast of characters in this novel were my favorite part and include Win Lockwood, Myron’s investigative partner and friend; Jessica, Kathy’s sister and Myron’s one time love interest; Esperanza, Myron’s assistant; Jake Courter, the detective investigating Kathy’s case; and Christian Steele, the star quarterback who was Kathy’s boyfriend before she went missing. The writing was tight and funny at multiple instances and Myron Bolitar is one of the great hard boiled investigators you’ll ever read.
Just like in Death by Dumpling I was reminded of the lessons I learned way back in the first year of this reading experiment in The Cat Who Played Post Office. For one, keeping reader interest is a speciality of Coben as the chapters are short and each one is packed with enough information to keep the story moving. I’d also have to say I got tons of outright pleasure reading this book as the mystery was quite engrossing and kept me guessing until the end, when Myron runs a scam to draw the killer out. There are also subplots revolving around Myron’s sports agent woes and his tangles with the mob, who are involved with another agent. And the “hook” is definitely interesting as I had never read a story about a sports agent, let alone one who had such an interesting backstory (Myron was a former professional basketball player who got injured and then worked for the FBI).
I would recommend this novel for anyone looking for a more modern hard-boiled mystery story as it is quite the roiling tale. And one does not have to know much if anything about sports to enjoy the book as that theme seems to be secondary to the drama of the mystery. Up next I am veering back into the experimental realm, taking on another collection I have sitting on my shelf that I have been waiting years to get to: Italo Calvino’s The Complete Cosmicomics. Thanks for following me along this reading adventure.
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John Abraham is a published author and freelance journalist who lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Mary and their cat. He is writing a speculative dystopian novel and is seeking representation and a publisher.