Saturday, 2 August 2014

Charlotte Kills by Reb MacRath

Reviewed by Chris Longmuir

This is the third Boss MacTavin mystery book by Reb MacRath, but it was the first one I had read. When writing a book it is often advised to start with a good hook, and this one had a really shocking hook. It started with Boss MacTavin in a meeting with a mafia don after receiving a hatbox containing his fiancee’s head, and I wondered if this was an indication of the type of book this was going to be.

Once I got past the shock factor I realised this was a book which in the golden age of crime fiction would have been called hard-boiled. It had a private investigator or PI, plus mafia thugs, a black widow, crooked cops, and plenty of violent action.

Boss MacTavin undertakes an investigation for Don Sal Vittale, a San Francisco mafia don. The Don wants him to look into the murder of his niece’s husband in Charlotte, but the problem for Boss is that the man accused of the killing is the son of Don Cordalini, an old adversary. The investigation starts off a series of action filled and violent events.

Boss MacTavin was an interesting main character. He’s a tough guy, with tough looks, and a battle scarred body. He also only has one eye, the result of a previous violent confrontation. The book was well written, the descriptions were excellent, and the atmosphere suited the story. Part one was action packed and typical of the hard-boiled style, the pace was fast, and violence proliferated. The pace seemed to change in part two, there was more planning and slightly less action, and seemed to become a sting novel which Boss MacTavin termed a Correction. Although this part had less action it had more mystery, and I was left guessing what the Correction was going to be, and along the way there were several twists. Needless to say, by the end all was clear.

I liked this book on several levels. Firstly, I liked the hard-boiled style of part one, which satisfied all the expectations of this style of book. The characters were good and realistic and played their roles well. The writing was atmospheric and descriptive, and the action scenes were also realistic. In part two, I like the mystery element and the twists, and when the sting finally took place it was a surprise.

Reading this book has made me want to read the first two Boss MacTavin books, although this book is a stand-alone and is perfectly understandable without reading the previous two.

Chris Longmuir

You can buy the book at: