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Book Review: Tonight I Said Goodbye by Michael Koryta

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I check out the new mystery/detective books on a regular basis, so I don’t know how Micheal Koryta’s debut novel, Tonight I Said Goodbye, slipped under my radar. But it did. Even more surprising, the author was only 21 when he wrote the book, and he demonstrates the air of a prose as he strings his story along across the pages of the novel.

Koryta also works as a private investigator and journalist himself, so his knowledge of those fields definitely helped him bring his story together. His love of old hardboiled detective novels and films shows throughout the story as well. He understands what motivates those characters, and he uses those motivations to underscore his own take on the genre.

The plot gets kind of busy at first. Wayne Weston is a local private investigator that ends up getting killed. His wife and young daughter are missing. His father John, a World War II vet, hires our heroes Lincoln Perry and Joe Pritchard to find out who killed his son and where his daughter-in-law and granddaughter are. Of course, you have to swallow immediately the fact that a two-man detective agency can do a better investigation than the Cleveland Police Department. But Koryta actually makes a case for that two. That’s just one of the twists readers can expect.

The characters are realistic enough but they feel a little thin. Since this is the first book of at least three, I suspect that situation has remedied itself as the novels have progressed. Lincoln Perry is the youngest of the two, closing in on 30 and already a jaded ex-cop. Joe Pritchard is in his fifties, but is a straight arrow and tough as nails. I liked the dialogue that gets exchanged between the two, and the friendship that is apparent.

Koryta advances his mystery well, too. This isn’t the tough guy private eye that Robert B. Parker writes about (and I absolutely love those books). Perry and Pritchard are more a nuts and bolts kind of team, playing everything by the numbers and realistically. There aren’t a lot of frantic car chases or gunfights, but somehow the story moves along well enough with twists and turns and discoveries that I didn't miss those things much.

I enjoyed playing wingman to Lincoln Perry as he narrates the story, and I paid attention to the details and clues. Koryta writes fairly and doesn’t hide things. I had most of it figured out by the end, though there was one reversal that I didn't see coming. But I have to admit, I didn't like the guy anyway so it was no really big surprise. Before the story is over, though, Perry and Pritchard end up face-to-face with one of the most cold-blooded Russian Mafia guys in Cleveland. And readers know those paths will have to cross again.

Thankfully, I picked up the next two paperback editions in the series. These are perfect beach reads and I’m looking forward to getting to know more about these two private eyes and their world.

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