The Big Tilt
by Dan Flanigan
Arjuna Books

"He sat back down again, and that’s how they found him—seated, in shock, unable to speak, a twisted, blackened human charcoal log plucked from the fire."

After surviving Vietnam and sobering up thanks to an old friend and lawyer, Mike Harrigan, Peter O’Keefe has become a private detective trying to earn a living and pay his two loyal employees. He recently had a run-in with a mafia family and is still on their hit list, but O’Keefe hopes he can fall off their radar and help his ex-wife raise their daughter. When Harrigan approaches him about a job, O’Keefe needs the work and is interested. However, he soon finds out it involves a few ex-classmates. The popular high-school quarterback, Jerry Jensen, is now on his way to becoming the city mayor. The problem is that an old flame of O’Keefe’s, Bev, is claiming Jensen raped her in high school and is the father of her now eighteen-year-old son. Jensen wants Harrigan and O’Keefe to find out what Bev really wants and to see if they can get her to stay quiet to not mess up his political aspirations. Things escalate when Jensen hires a known thug to assist him, and Bev dies from a suspicious overdose. In addition, Harrigan finds himself in court as the fall guy for some shady bank dealings.

Flanigan effectively captures the tough-guy, private detective feel that perfectly fits in the late 1980s. The audience will likely see a resemblance in O’Keefe to that of the 1980s version of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. In addition, there are plot similarities between this work and a lot of the thrillers that Harlan Coben writes. However, Flanigan’s main character is more well-rounded than many of Coben’s characters. Flanigan blends a good mix of O’Keefe’s wrecked past with his desire to be everyone’s hero and see justice done. He is an engaging character who must continually work at making good decisions to keep himself and those around him safe, both from external factors and his own demons. This makes O’Keefe a more complex and compelling tough guy than the average P.I.

Although this is the second book in the Peter O’Keefe story, readers are given enough background to understand how the protagonist has gotten to his current place in life. Flanigan writes clear, consistent, and concise sentences. He doesn’t utilize the Hemingway style of making short and choppy sentences that come off as occasionally lyrical and heartbreakingly poetic, but Flanigan still manages a certain refined simplicity which gives his writing a smoothness and dignity, which could be easily overlooked as the sentences are so imminently readable. The major crises in the book are less about figuring out who did what and more about trying to keep the characters alive long enough for the obvious suspects to make a mistake that can be used against them. However, as an author Flanigan isn’t without his twists, and he does hide one well at the book’s end. The major resolution of the murder isn’t resolved in as sophisticated and satisfying a manner as some may desire, but the narrative still comes together in a consistently engaging style with strong characters caught in an interesting scenario. Flanigan’s book will undoubtedly have broad appeal and is easily recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers and stories about private investigators.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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