But on occasion I’ve missed a really good author until he or she is in full stride in their series—then, of course, I have to backtrack to the first book and work my way through to the end, generally enjoying each book as much as that first discovery. Years ago, it was John D. MacDonald and Travis McGee that I stumbled into around Pale Gray for Guilt; much to my chagrin, only a few years ago it was Lee Child and Reacher about five or six novels into their series.
Most times these have been private-eye series, a genre mainstay for decades, and their underlying attraction for me always has been innovative plotting. Yes, I love the characterizations of Elvis and Joe, Kinsey, Mallory, V.I., Spenser and Hawk, and all those Dick Francis characters who are really just one person under their camouflage. And, yes, setting can anchor a novel like no other element, even to the point of becoming a character itself in many a story.
Nevertheless, when I’m tired of schemes to blow up the world by next Tuesday or struggles to find yet one more monstrous serial killer—some themes are becoming so overused as to become trite—I love to read books by an writer with a refreshing take on crime and crime-fighting, up close and personal.
Such an author is David Housewright, whose Rushmore McKenzie series I’m currently enjoying. McKenzie is an ex-cop of now-independent means who lives in the St. Paul/Minneapolis metro area and occasionally does investigative favors for his friends. Housewright offers up plenty of information about McKenzie and his cohorts, and not only does he describe how the Twin Cities area looks and feels, but he also offers up enough social and political history to satisfy the inquiring reader.
Mostly, however, Housewright writes an interesting, impelling plot. Early in his series (and in paperback) are
Hard Ticket Home, about finding a possible bone marrow donorHis more recent books have been published only in hardcover (but are available for rent at MBTB for only $5/week), and they are
Tin City, about a man whose bees are dying
Pretty Girl Gone, about an extortion attempt on a public official.
Dead Boyfriends, about a woman whose boyfriends have short livesHousewright also won an Edgar (Best First Novel) for Penance, the first of three Holland Taylor, P.I., books—those I had read as they were published, and they are very similar in tone to the McKenzie books. Housewright’s work also is featured in Twin Cities Noir.
Madman on a Drum, about a kidnapping aimed at McKenzie
Jelly’s Gold, about illicit gold maybe stashed away by an early 20th- century gangster
The Taking of Libbie, S.D., about a town taken to the cleaners by a charlatan
Highway 61, about a teenager who wants to help her no-good dad out of a jam.