Hot Start

There’s a recurring gag from the movie Heathers that comes to mind when I think about Hot Start, the fifth book in David Freed’s Cordell Logan series. The gag goes something like this:

Veronica’s Dad: Will someone tell me why I keep reading these damn detective novels?

Veronica: Because you’re an idiot, dad.

Veronica’s Dad: Oh yeah…

Ok, so maybe that reference says more about the reader than the author, but here’s the thing: I like this series. I like detective novels, even if they deal in predictable tropes and well-worn cliches. And I especially like my detective novels with a side of hardboiled wise-cracking. So I should’ve like Hot Start. From the book jacket:

The fifth volume in the Cordell Logan series, is a fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride filled with plenty of unexpected twists and full-throttle action.

A notorious, international big-game hunter and his beautiful, former flight attendant wife are gunned down at long range late one sweltering summer night, while swimming naked on their seaside estate in opulent Rancho Bonita, California. Police investigators are convinced that the killer is a strident, outspoken animal-rights activist with both military experience and a criminal record. The evidence against him would appear overwhelming — until rumors begin to surface that others may have had their own reasons for committing murder.

The last thing flight instructor, aspiring Buddhist, and ex-government assassin Cordell Logan wants to do is become involved in the investigation. He and the accused, however, have mutual friends. Reluctant at first, Logan finds himself caught up in an increasingly confounding enigma, one that swirls around a popular congressman with close ties to the White House, a European call girl ring, and a ruthless Czech crime boss who’ll stop at nothing to protect his interests. Pursuing the truth will take Logan to places few others would dare go, exposing him to dangers that even he may not survive.

So what went wrong?

  1. Emotional stakes – Even Logan keeps asking himself why he’s working the case. In a word, I suppose it comes down to guilt. Savannah, the love of Logan’s life, died as a result of his actions in a previous novel. But in this story, Savannah’s cousin is being held for a crime he says he didn’t commit, and Logan feels a debt to Savannah’s father, a man he’s never really liked. And just for good measure, Logan didn’t even know Savannah had a cousin, and her father isn’t even sure he wants to pony up any money for the guy’s defense.
  2. Obvious – All readers of the genre like to see if they can outsmart the author and guess the identity of the killer. That’s part of the fun. But I picked it up when the killer is first introduced in what we’re led to believe is a throwaway scene a few chapters in. Here’s a hint: Logan notes the fact that the guy is living large, even though his most lucrative client just died. It doesn’t help that the victim is a big-game hunter and the killer’s name is Ivory.

Will I keep reading this series? Probably. For one thing, I liked the first four books. And hey, everyone is entitled to a flop now and then. Or maybe I’m just an idiot, like Veronica’s dad.

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