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P.I.

Tin City, David Housewright, Leisure Books, $6.99.

Tin City by David Housewright

I'm not really sure why I've never read a David Housewright novel before - he won an Edgar on his first outing and has been a presence in mystery publishing ever since. This particular book, featuring Rushmore "Mac" McKenzie, snared me from the first sentence and didn't let go. Mac is an ex cop who came into lots of money, left the force, and now spends his life doing "favors" for friends - favors that involve detective work and gun play. He's like many another mystery white knight, setting out to right wrongs, with the added advantage of not having to worry about money. Usually I find a gimmick like that extremely irritating, but for some reason, it works here, and my quibbles faded into the background as I got caught up in the story.

Housewright is very similar both in tone and pacing to the talented G.M. Ford, who has evolved his Leo Waterman series into a series about true crime writer Frank Corso, who also is out to right wrongs one way or another. I have a feeling Frank and Mac would enjoy each other's company.

In this outing - the third for Mac - he's called in to look at his friend Mr. Mosley's bees, which are mysteriously dying. Mac knows someone at the University of Minnesota (these novels take place in and around St. Paul and Minneapolis) who can help him to figure out what's wrong with the bees, and because Mr. Mosley has always been a "good guy" and a firm friend of Mac's now deceased father, Mac agrees to help figure out what's wrong. The bees, of course, lead to a whole other story. When the researcher helping Mac out - a pretty U of M grad student - gets shot at while she's taking soil samples, Mac follows up. When he and Mr. Mosley approach the man who shot at the student and get shot at and insulted themselves, it takes the story to another level. Mac goes to a lawyer friend to have him write a threatening type letter to the man, and that's when things go from bad to worse. When Mr. Mosley turns up dead and the FBI tells Mac to forget about what happened, Mac just can't do it.

His money comes in handy when he wants to drop out of sight with fake ID and try and figure out what happened to Mr. Mosley and why without the help of the police or the FBI. His old cop contacts don't hurt either. Housewright writes with real verve, interspersing violence with humor, and keeping the reader's interest with a compelling and memorable main character. His narrative style is smooth, easy and readable, and for a long winter's night in front of the fire a dose of Mac and his adventures may be just what you need.

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