Wednesday, 18 September 2013

E. MICHAEL HELMS - DEADLY CATCH


Synopsis/blurb........

After twenty-four years in the marines, Mac McClellan is happy to be a civilian again and let others take charge, but that's not going to happen until he clears his name as the number one suspect in a murder.

When recently retired U.S. Marine Mac McClellan hooks a badly decomposed body while enjoying a leisurely fishing vacation in the Florida panhandle, and then a bag of rare marijuana is discovered stashed aboard his rental boat, he realizes someone is setting him up to take the fall for murder and drug smuggling. Mac and Kate Bell, a feisty saleslady at the local marina with whom he has struck up a promising relationship, launch an investigation to clear his name. Along the way Mac must butt heads and match wits with local law enforcement officials, shady politicians, and strong-armed thugs from the Eastern Seaboard to sniff out and bring the real smugglers and killer to justice.

Helms is another new author for me. Previously his Vietnam memoir, The Proud Bastards was originally published back in 1990 and has been reprinted at various times over the years. He has also authored a novel about the Civil War called Of Blood and Brothers.

Deadly Catch is a mystery novel set in Florida. Mac McClellan, our main man is a likeable, capable ex-marine on vacation. Divorced with a couple of grown up children, he’s doing a spot of fishing whilst deciding what to do with the rest of his life. Snagging a dead body isn’t part of his vacation planning and after a brusque encounter with the resident sheriff Bo Pickron, another veteran and war hero Mac’s life gets a little bit complicated.  When the corpse is subsequently found to be the sheriff’s niece and murdered to boot, Mac fits the bill as number one suspect.

Subsequent events do little to ease him back into civilian life and holiday mode..... a stash of dope is found on his chartered boat and then his trailer burns down. His developing friendship with Kate, who dismissed the spiky sheriff’s amorous attentions, previously, does little initially to calm the situation. Throw the feisty City police chief Merritt into the mix as well as some small town intrigue in the form of a long-time feud between two prominent families, one of which has just suffered the bereavement of the murder victim and top it off with some dope smuggling and the situation escalates for McClellan.

McClellan teaming up with an unlikely ally, digs deeper into the family feud and the town’s recent history to try and get himself out from under the frame that’s been clumsily assembled around him.

Overall verdict.......enjoyable, well written, decent pace, interesting and believable characters, satisfying conclusion.

Only one minor, itsybitsy, wee gripe from me.........Kate, Mac’s friend and confidant has an irritating habit of saying the annoying word........ DANG! And not just on one occasion either. The irrational part of my brain had me half hoping she was kidnapped and bound and gagged as a sudden plot twist - just so she couldn’t speak!  I would hazard that the word is part of the local dialect, but for some inexplicable reason it just grated on me.


4 stars from 5

I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy from Lisa at Prometheus Books. Many thanks!

Deadly Catch is released on 12th November, and next year sees a second McClellan mystery from the author - Deadly Ruse. Something to look forward to in 2014!   

    

12 comments:

  1. You made me laugh with the dang complaints. Overall sounds like the kind of thing I'd read if I found it on the bookshelf of a holiday house, but I probably wouldn't seek out...

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    1. Moira, it's the little things that wind me up - I've probably reached a tipping point in my life where I'm more Meldrew-ish than not. Though if you spoke to my kids, they'll claim I've always been that way. I briefly scanned the small portion of book 2 posted on the author's website and the speech pattern is consistent at least at the start of book 2.......yippee!

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  2. Nice review, Col. The "dang" bit was really funny. I could do that to a lot of characters. In "Sunset Ranch," a western by pseudonymous writer Amy Bell Marlowe, a secondary character called Big Hen Billings keeps saying "Great jumping Jehosaphat!" which, if I remember correctly, I last came across in Archie comics. Fortunately, the big foreman's presence in the story is limited to only three pages.

    The theme of an ex-law enforcer being yanked back from his or her retirement or vacation to investigate a crime, voluntarily or otherwise, appears to be popular among present-day authors. I have seen this in a few reviews I've read in recent weeks.

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    1. Prashant, thanks - on reflection I'll be happier sticking with with Dang than "Great jumping Jehosaphat!"

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  3. Col - Well, dang, I'm glad you thought this was enjoyable - whoops! Sorry! ;-) In all seriousness, I do know what you mean about characters' expressions that drive one made after a bit. I'm glad you thought the story was a good one. Sounds like McClellan has an interesting background too.

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    1. Dang Margot! You just had to didn't you? I still enjoyed it though!

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  4. Another nice review, Col. It doesn't seem like my kind of book, but maybe I will change my mind when you review the 2nd one in 2014.

    Has your Follow by Email thingy been there all along, and I just missed it? I have been wanting to do that for a long time so I would not miss any of your reviews. So now I won't... miss any.

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    1. Tracy cheers.

      The follow by email bit was a fairly recent addition, maybe 6 weeks ago - someone else mentioned it and I hadn't even realised it was an option!

      Enjoy the book sale!

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  5. Dang is a common term in the Southern states of the U.S. It's what kids turned to when their parents caught them saying "damn." Dang was, and is, acceptable. I've often head the English (British?) term, "a spot of tea," or the like, but "a spot of fishing?" That's foreign to Southern U.S. ears. A "spot" of this or a "spot" of that would drive me crazy, so I guess we're even on the "dang" thing. :-)

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    1. E. - thanks for stopping by. A minor gripe in a fine book!
      When the dang second one due out, sir?

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  6. Hi, Col: The second Mac McClellan Mystery, "Deadly Ruse," is scheduled for Fall/Winter 2014. Almost ready to submit the third, "Deadly Dunes," and am now at work on the fourth, "Deadly Spirits." Thanks for taking my comments as intended. I dang sure appreciate it!

    Best, Michael

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    1. Michael thanks for the update. I'll keep an eye out for them.

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