Saturday, May 11, 2013

ARC Review: Cuts Through Bone by Alaric Hunt

Cuts Through Bone
Author: Alaric Hunt
Publication: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (May 14, 2013)

Description: Winner of the PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Competition

At first, Rachel Vasquez found her new job working for private detective Clayton Guthrie promising. He got her a gun and a license and took her to target practice. But lately she’s just been doing surveillance, and it’s not her idea of an exciting time. She is contemplating quitting when Guthrie lands an intriguing case that will take all their wits and guts to solve.

Camille Bowman, a beautiful blond Columbia student and Manhattan heiress, is found dead, shot by a gun that belonged to her fiancé Greg Olsen, an Afghan war veteran. Guthrie is hired to prove Olsen’s innocence, and fortunately he thinks Olsen smells clean. The detectives return to the scene of the crime where they see a vagrant who claims he heard the shots and picked the girl’s wallet. Tiring of their questions, the vagrant flees, and Vasquez and Guthrie must track a man who’s an expert at disappearing while also butting heads with the NYPD, cracking doors at Columbia University, and crawling through the city's subterranean tunnels.

To complicate matters, the murder could be part of a spree of killings being called the Barbiedoll murders, in which women are killed for no apparent reason and with no suspect in sight. The NYPD would like to pin them all on Olsen, and his life will depend on Guthrie and Vasquez catching the real culprit. In a race against time, the detectives gather clues that culminate in a bloody chase of one very determined and surprising killer.

Cuts Through Bone is a suspenseful ride, a novel that is atmospheric, stylistic, and gritty to boot. In Vasquez and Guthrie, youth and brashness meet experience and resolve, making for one of the most intriguing PI teams around. Debut author Alaric Hunt has penned a riveting hardboiled mystery, a contemporary story with the feel of a classic PI novel and a scope as large and complex as New York City, and even reaching beyond.

My Thoughts: Alaric Hunt channels Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler in this mystery that is reminiscent of the hard-boiled detective stories of the 1930s and 40s. However, Hunt does bring the mystery up to the present by adding computers, cell phones and a young female Puerto Rican assistant to our hard-boiled detective.

Raquel Vasquez is new to the detective business. All she has done so far is learn to shoot and learn to observe. Surveillance isn't holding her attention though. When her boss Clayton Guthrie gets a new case, things start to look up.

Guthrie is hired by one of New York's Old Money types to find out who killed his niece. Another niece is convinced that it wasn't her boyfriend Greg Olsen even though the police have arrested him. Guthrie and Vasquez begins a hunt that takes them among the homeless in New York City, involves the Russian mob, and has roots in the war in Afghanistan. 

I liked Raquel as a character and empathized with her struggles to be her own person while not disappointing her loving parents. I disliked that Hunt continually described her as Puerto Rican as though nothing else about her mattered as much. 

I liked the colorful descriptions including "grilled her like a sandwich" but disliked the amount of description because I felt that it slowed the pace of the story and was sometimes inappropriately placed (like in the middle of a conversation).

I thought Hunt captured the grittiness of a hunt for a murderer, and the tedium of an investigation that required hours of following leads that may or may not pan out, well. I thought that the many threads that Guthrie and Vasquez discovered added to the richness of the story even though some of the threads were left hanging at the end. 

Fans of the hard-boiled detective stories of the 30s and 40s would be a good audience for this title.

Favorite Quote:
Vasquez cleared her throat and caught Whitridge's eye. "I gotta admit I thought of that," the young Puerto Rican said. "That first thing, he would kill Gagneau. I thought of that and didn't think it was a bad thing. Gagneau needs to be dead now, not a year from now, or however long it takes to convince the NYPD to look for him. I spent the past few days looking at women he's killed. Gagneau's not going to stop. He's killed almost two hundred women over the past year or so. Maybe a man don't find that much to worry about. Mister, he don't need another year, or even another week."
I got this eGalley through Minotaur Books eGalley Newsletter: March Edition. You can buy your copy here.

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