|Michael Koryta: Tonight I Said Goodbye|
Thomas Dunne Books (Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-33245-9
Twenty-one year old Michael Koryta makes his literary debut with the novel which won the 2003 St. Martin's Press/Private Eye Writers of America Prize for Best First Private Eye Novel. The story unfolds in the form of a first person narrative by private investigator Lincoln Perry. Much of the character development of the two protagonists takes place in the frequent give and take of breezy banter between himself and his partner, Joe Pritchard. Koryta labels this character-revealing dialogue as "tag team wit." Despite a somewhat slow-paced opening, Tonight I Said Goodbye develops into a lively and suspenseful novel complete with an abundance of intriguing characters, a bucket full of unexpected plot twists and a climax crammed with tension-filled action.
Cleveland police find private investigator Wayne Weston dead from a gunshot to the head and discover his wife and daughter missing. The police surmise two possible scenarios for the death and disappearances. In the first scenario, Wayne Weston murdered his wife and daughter, then committed suicide. The second posits Weston's murder and the kidnapping of the missing family members. Discounting the first scenario, John Weston, the victim's father, hires private detectives Lincoln Perry and Joe Pritchard to find the killers of his son, disprove the suicide theory, and locate his missing daughter-in-law and grandchild.
With the help of Cleveland Daily Journal reporter Amy Ambrose, Perry and Pritchard follow up on information gleaned from the victim's office files. They quickly discover evidence of extortion and ties between a group of Russian thugs and one of the richest and most powerful men in the city. As the investigation intensifies, the FBI steps into the high profile case and suggests the detectives drop out. Like any heroes worth their salt, they refuse and work out compromises to continue with the case.
The playing field gets rough and dangerous as the partners dig deeper into a complex mix of murder, mob war, extortion and weapons trafficking. In the climactic action sequences, Perry and his companions find themselves fighting for their lives. Before the story line reaches this moment, however, Koryta manages to work in some clever and neatly placed surprises. Veterans of the genre may anticipate some of them, but I'll refrain from listing them in this review and let the readers enjoy the moments for themselves.
Tonight I Said Goodbye marks the splendid beginning for a very talented writer, and while it might benefit from a little less dialogue, a tad more character development and a tweak to the pacing, it remains, nevertheless, a very entertaining novel.
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