Stuart M. Kaminsky’s Lew Fonesca mysteries are comfort reading for me, meant for lazy rainy days or for weekends when I can read late into the evening. The puzzles are fair, and the mysteries are intriguing enough, but it’s the people and the problems Lou faces that really capture my attention and emotions.
A few years ago, Lew Fonesca lost his wife in a tragic hit and run car accident in Chicago. Lost, he got in his car and drove until he ended up in Sarasota, Florida where he works as a process server and some time off-the-books private investigator. Usually the cases he ends up with are too small for big-name detectives and annoyances for the local police. There’s not much money in them, but Fonesca doesn’t need much money. Better than that, having a low price tag doesn’t mean the mystery is second-rate.
Another one of the great features of the series is that devoted readers get to see Fonesca grow and change as he grapples with emotionally-charged issues that threaten to shatter him completely or draw him out of his shell. His depression over his wife’s death still lingers and I don’t think it will ever completely go away. His illness lends him a childlike innocence that is endearing and makes readers feel protective.
In this latest case, as chronicled in Bright Futures, Fonesca gets hired by a couple of high school students to clear a friend of theirs who is accused of murdering Phillip Horvecki, a local politician who is against the way the local high school offers curriculum for bright students. The case pretty much looks open and shut, but the students are insistent and Fonesca feels he has no choice. He thinks he’s just going to look around a little, assure them that their friend really did do the murder, then give them their money back. I was intrigued by the case but only because I was waiting to see what the author would do with it. I knew from experience that all was not what it seemed.
Then the case turns weird as an ex-television actor picks Fonesca up at gunpoint and takes the private investigator to see D. Elliot Corkle, the grandfather of one of the boys who hired him. Corkle is a multimillionaire who made his fortunes selling weird gizmos on television. He’s one of those interesting characters who Kaminski writes so well, and that Florida seems to show a bumper crop of. Just like the television actor character, Kaminski has a blast writing the dialogue as well as the characters’ personalities.
On the way back, a little more curious but still definitely thinking there’s nothing to the case, Fonesca nearly gets killed when someone shoots a pellet gun at the car and causes a wreck. The ex-television actor/bodyguard takes the worst of it, possibly being blinded in one eye. Later, Darrell, Fonesca’s little brother, get shot and hospitalized by the same pellet gun.
Now that the case – since I like the characters so much – has turned more personal for me as well, Fonesca starts hitting the bricks harder. Ames McKinney, the Sam Elliott sound alike/look alike unofficial partner to Fonesca, joins the hunt. I love McKinney. The man never goes anywhere without a gun, and he doesn’t hesitate to use it.
Bright Futures takes close attention in some areas because there are a lot of characters and Kaminski hits his stride with the mystery early on. But it goes down so smoothly that I lost track of the hours as I turned the pages. When I finished, I was totally satisfied with the experience. Now I just wish I didn’t have to wait a year for the next.
New readers are encouraged to read the books in order. You really don’t have to, but in order to see the major arcs that play out in Fonesca’s life, it would be better. For those of you who start picking the books up, I envy you your experience. You’ve got a lot of good reading ahead of you with the six books.