Cade Blackstone, the investigative pride and joy of Carlton, Oregon, is back. Introduced by author Kate Ayers in A MURDER OF CROWS, Blackstone is an independently wealthy PI who made his money the old-fashioned way --- he inherited it --- and thus is somewhat of a laid-back Amos Burke, though he remains unspoiled. Indeed, Blackstone limits himself romantically to his luscious girlfriend Lauren (though he is not above checking out the menu) and his ostentatiousness to his home and his choice of transportation, a cherry Lamborghini. He is otherwise a fairly regular guy, with pets --- Jiggs, a Chinese Shar Pei, and Irene Adler, a macaw --- and geographically distant but charming parents. For those who prefer their mysteries lighter rather than darker, but don’t want to sacrifice substance, A WALK OF SNIPES should be just the berries.
"While there is little doubt that Blackstone will uncover the who and the why behind Rossi’s disappearance, Ayers nonetheless drops a couple of surprises into the climax that will catch even veteran mystery readers unaware.... [T]he likable Blackstone, with a strong supporting cast, will keep fans of all genres coming back for more."
Blackstone’s latest case comes to him via a referral from Cassandra York, a former if short-term flame of his who is a rival, though lesser, private investigator. The referral is to a matter involving her friend Tiffany Jones, whose brother disappeared during the annual gathering of the Red Car Club at Whale Cape on the Oregon coast. The car club membership roster consists primarily of a group of spoiled swells who value their high-end sports cars above all else. Drake Rossi, the missing brother, fits the membership description in spades. He is --- or maybe was --- a letterhead partner in one of Portland's most litigious firms and left a trail of unhappy defendants and ex-girlfriends in his wake, including Melody Kelly, who was in attendance at the gathering and happens to be the secretary for one of the firm's other partners. Daniela, Rossi’s wife, is another suspect; he had been seen arguing with her throughout the entire weekend. There is nothing fancy about Blackstone's investigative style, which consists of looking at the evidence, talking to witnesses and potential suspects, and pushing and probing until something or someone gives up the goods.
Blackstone knows that he’s on the right track when he's attacked by an unknown assailant in a manner that I don't believe I have encountered in a mystery for well over 50 years. (I think it was in THE WALTON BOYS IN HIGH COUNTRY by Hal Burton, but don't hold me to that.) Blackstone realizes that he is close when an unseen adversary targets him for a silent death in the area where the missing litigator was last seen alive. He survives with some damage, but is undaunted, even as his pursuit of information on behalf of his client leads him further into dangerous territory.
While there is little doubt that Blackstone will uncover the who and the why behind Rossi’s disappearance, Ayers nonetheless drops a couple of surprises into the climax that will catch even veteran mystery readers unaware. Although the mystery at the core of A WALK OF SNIPES is engaging, it is primarily a character-driven work. Nonetheless, the likable Blackstone, with a strong supporting cast, will keep fans of all genres coming back for more.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 8, 2013