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P.I.

A Welcome Grave, Michael Koryta, St. Martin's Minotaur, $23.95.

Michael Koryta is one of the brightest new talents to hit the mystery genre in several years. His books are mature, well crafted and impossible to put down, and more, he has created a character, Lincoln Perry, that seems destined for a long run in the P.I. constellation. I think someday Lincoln Perry will rank right up there with Spenser, Amos Walker, Elvis Cole and Patrick Kenzie. In fact, on the basis of the first two books alone, Lincoln Perry deserves a place at that distinguished table. A Welcome Grave picks up where the last novel, Sorrow's Anthem, left off, with Lincoln's partner, Joe, out for the count with an injury acquired in that novel. I think it's an unusual move - Lincoln, the younger and less experienced partner, is left on his own in this book, and it gives it something different from the other two (a trick many gifted authors use to keep their series fresh - check out William Kent Krueger's books to see what I mean). He also employs one of my other favorite tropes - the case from the past coming back to bite him.

In A Welcome Grave Lincoln gets a puzzling call from his old girlfriend, Karen - she had left Lincoln for another man - her husband is now dead, and she wants Lincoln to simply find the dead man's son and tell him about his father's death. Easy. Of course nothing is ever that simple in a mystery novel, so when Lincoln is able to fairly easily trace the missing son and goes to find him in Indiana, he gets there just in time to have a front row seat at the man's suicide. The local cops take him for a suspect instead of a witness but he's easily able to get out of jail, and then he's stuck again because the Indiana cops aren't the only ones who think he had something to do with the man's death. When he gets back to Ohio all hell breaks loose, and he's not sure what to do about it.

Karen's ex husband, of course, is not just dead, he was murdered in a particularly brutal way, and clues start to add up that indicate to the cops that Lincoln might be guilty. This is a pretty typical set up, but Koryta is able to handle it with a real eye to a jet powered narrative that carries the reader right along with it. Because Joe is out of the picture, Lincoln eventually turns to a sinister Russian named Thor for a little back up - think Hawk or Joe Pike, only a shade more morally questionable - and he is eventually able to untangle the convoluted plot around Karen's husband's and stepson's death. If you like P.I. novels even a little bit it would be a crime to miss these books by the talented Koryta. It will truly whet you appetite for the next book, and to me that's a sign of a terrific writer.

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