It’s been six or seven years since I picked up Whiskey Sour, the first Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels novel. That book introduced Jack, a tough female homicide lieutenant on the trail of a serial killer. Jack was different than your average detective, or even female detective from the start. Yet, she shared a lot with other protagonists of the genre; she was over caffeinated, obsessed with catching the bad guy. She bucked her bosses, the Feds sent into help but who were more obsessed with protecting their territory and media presence. She had an overweight partner, Herb. But she was also a shop-aholic, dwelled on her sex life or lack there of, and made Emelda Marcos look a piker when it came to shoes and fashion.
The great thing about the Jack Daniels stories is they seemed to update the hardboiled genre, introducing dating websites, the internet, cell phone cameras, as well as other social trends that even the most up to date hardboiled noir seemed to want to ignore, or at least deal with superficially.
The books were always a bit over the top; the bad guys were super villains, with body counts that tobacco industry execs would have been proud of. But Konrath’s writing, his plot, dialog, and character development were so good, you’d get hung up in the story, and soon forget that. Mix in some wry humor, timely one-liners and an ability to maintain the action and tension for Olympic Record’s worth of page counts, and they were a winner.
Stirred, comes as what we are told is the last installment of the Jack Daniels series. Here it is six or seven years later (twenty plus years in Jackie time) and Jack is now retired and expecting a baby with her likeable criminal boyfriend, Phineas (Phin) Troutt and even contemplating marriage.
Entering the picture is Blake Crouch’s evilest killer, Luther Kite. Seems Luther has always been disappointed in his victims. Even the most heroic, the strongest of the strong break too easily. He needs a challenge and settles on Jack and her friends. The killings start in hideous fashion. A women is kidnapped and hung from a derelict railroad bridge while she was still alive. She was also gutted, and her entrails left to hang from her body as she slowly died. Jack is supposed to be retired, and at eight and a half months pregnant and suffering from eclampsia, is supposed to be taking it easy.