Reviewer Steve Moore: Steve is a full-time writer and ex-scientist. Besides his many technical publications, he has written six sci-fi thrillers (one a novel for young adults), many short stories, and frequent comments on writing and the digital revolution in publishing. His interests also include physics, mathematics, genetics, robotics, forensics, and scientific ethics. Follow Here for his WEBSITE.
Author: John J. Hohn
Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 978-1-4327-5875-2Deadly Portfolio is a pleasant mixture of mystery and suspense that will entertain you by the fire with your sherry during a few fall or winter evenings.
Author: John J. Hohn
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Deadly Portfolio is a pleasant mixture of mystery and suspense that will entertain you by the fire with your sherry during a few fall or winter evenings. It is pleasant in the sense that an Agatha Christie mystery is pleasant. There is a deadly undercurrent in these pages that illustrates the evil that lurks beneath the veneer of civilized society, an evil caused by the greed and corruption of capitalism run amok. The first crime that occurs is no mystery—there is only suspense about how it is discovered. The mystery is in what the guilty will do to keep the first crime from being discovered.
Outskirts (or the author) classifies this book as “mystery and detective.” I already commented on the first. The detective is James Raker, a member of the Sheriff’s Department. He has some serious psychological baggage, mostly associated with losing his wife to cancer, but I can’t really say the book is about him, thus deserving the classification “detective.” Raker is quite different than Connelly’s Harry Bosch, for example—Harry is always in the foreground.
John J. Hohn’s work is hard to classify, in fact. It is not a negative when I state that the real classification is just “good yarn.” The classification, after all, is only for bookstores that want to know where to put a book on the shelves. Since this book is POD (Outskirts is one of the major “print-on-demand” publishers), brick-and-mortar bookstores may be irrelevant. (In fact, since there is an eBook version, the paper POD version may be irrelevant by this time next year—eBook sales and eBook readers are taking off.)
I was attracted initially to the book because it uses the temptations associated with Wall Street greed and hedge fund risks as a motivation for murder. I went to the extremes with that concept in my own The Midas Bomb. Mr. Hohn doesn’t go quite that far—his murderer is more pedestrian and, by the same token, more insidious and like us. My Vladimir Kalinin is a major criminal and doesn’t feel any remorse. Mr. Hohn’s murderer is very remorseful, especially at the end. “Different stories, same effect,” you might say, but your tastes might prefer one over the other. I happen to like both.
I found the book slow going at first. Character study and background take precedence over hook and action. However, be patient. The story will grab you. Rene McAllister, the very unlikable wife of multi-millionaire Mac McAllister, washes up on the stockbroker Mathew Wirth’s beach when a Fourth of July bash is winding down. You, the reader, already know that this is no accident, although the privileged guests want the authorities to call it that way. Detective Raker, full of doubts, steps in, going against the Sheriff, who panders to those privileged guests, and the state’s CBI rep, who doesn’t want another investigation he is following tainted by this “accident.”
By the time Raker’s dogged perseverance ferrets out the real killer, two more have died. Giving away the total number might turn you off, but you’ll have some reading fun anticipating who they are and why. Raker is a main character, of course, but portraits of the other principal characters are more tightly drawn. Wirth and his partner and their wives are not stereotypes. Wirth, McAllister, and Raker all wrestle with existential and universal questions.
In fact, Mr. Hohn treats some of life’s pithy questions with a wisdom and candor that belie his background in the financial services industry. (I feel brotherhood here—we probably both should have been professional writers but were afraid that writing couldn’t support our families.)
Two quotes will serve as examples of the author’s wisdom and candor. On retirement: “No more income…just social security for the rest of our lives. We’ll need to live on what we’ve saved. Like pushing off from the dock. We’ll need to get by with what’s in the boat because our stores will not be replenished along the way.’’ And on death: “I don’t believe in a heaven or a hell. Once we go to sleep, it’s for keeps. The only real miracle about humankind is that we are here at all, surviving on a speck of a planet spinning through an infinite universe.” One might argue about the word “infinite,” but this is a succinct summary of Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy! Can I quote you at the top of my website, Mr. Hohn?
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