Peter Spiegelman‘s current crime novel, Thick as Thieves, features an ex-CIA operative as the operational brains behind crime ring that relies on the long con to make a clean getaway. He’s haunted by his past and his ability to trust his crew and himself, thanks to a caper-gone-bad that resulted in the death of his mentor and father figure. The book has a very even tone, some surprising twists, and is of the type I consider “an intellectual read,” meaning that you have to put some thought into it to get the most out of it… you’re not just rushed along by the pace of the plotting.
So, stimulated to find that Thick as Thieves is not Spiegelman’s first book, I went backwards in time to Black Maps, his debut novel. Like Thick as Thieves, it features a protagonist with a past. In this case, PI John March is an ex-deputy Sheriff whose dogged pursuit of a case led a serial killer to make his final kill… March’s wife. Black Maps finds March holding it all together (barely) by focusing on his fledgling business, his current case, and fending off the entreaties of his relatives trying to pull him into the family firm. Blue bloods, they weren’t thrilled with John March as a cop, and they’re even less thrilled with him as a PI. The book was mesmerizing (as evidenced by the Shamus Award it received).
On to the two subsequent John March books: Death’s Little Helpers and Red Cat. Also good. I gulped Red Cat in a day, staying up way-too-late last Friday night so that I could finish it, drawn in by March’s efforts to save his brother from a murder charge. Let’s just say the brother is NOT a wonderful guy. And something about that made the story even better. It’s one thing to move heaven and earth to save the virtuous. John March had to move heaven and earth to save a guy who had some pretty scummy secrets… but is still 1) his brother; and 2) innocent of the crime for which he was charged.
Spiegelman’s bio reads: Peter Spiegelman worked on Wall Street for twenty years developing software systems for international banking institutions and retired in 2001 to devote himself to writing. This background informs Spiegelman’s work, adds that feeling of authenticity, but doesn’t overwhelm the characters, plot, or emotion. His web site also notes he’s the editor for Wall Street Noir, a collection of short stories. I didn’t know that till today. Good thing the library’s open.