J. Daniel Sawyer’s name and books should be familiar to anyone that has spent any amount of time reading reviews on this blog. He is one of the most original and unique of any of the writers I know. Also take into account how prolific and ubiquitous his writing is, and I can always state that I am looking forward to seeing what he’ll come up with next.
So on to the review.
Synopsis: You met him in And Then She Was Gone, you got to know his family in A Ghostly Christmas Present. Now, the hard-boiled snarkfest continues as Clarke Lantham tackles the two most perplexing mysteries of the universe: FBI fugitives, and romance.
Clarke Lantham has a checkered relationship with holidays, and this New Year’s Eve is no different. His space is cramped, his personal life is on the skids, and his business is once again under assault from lawyers and bill collectors.
But it’s not all bad. The year from hell is ending tonight, and he has his office to himself, and when an old girlfriend shows up with a chance for a $50,000 reward and a New Year’s Eve reconciliation, he jumps at the chance. After all, things can only get better, right?
Setting: Clarke Lantham lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area. So does Mr. Sawyer. When I read the Clarke Lantham mysteries, Mr. Sawyer transports me to the city of cable cars, the golden gate, Alcatraz, coastal breezes and crime. Not saying that San Francisco is synonymous with crime, but if there wasn’t something shady going on, it wouldn’t be much of a mystery would it? Mr. Sawyer nails the feel of this locale and I enjoy experiencing a new city through the eyes of someone that knows and loves it. Even if that someone is a fictional character. Go figure.
Plot: It’s not going to end well. No, that is not a spoiler. It is a reality for any story of Mr. Sawyer’s that I’ve read. To date. Who knows? The next one might be about the fuzzy little bunnies holiday in Tokyo. Right before the bomb fell.
Clarke is ready for the new year. He has a bottle and a couple of stogies. He needs nothing else. Still. It’s not going to end well.
The plot is straight forward with only the occasional lost love of your life thrown in to muddy the waters. Will Clarke capture the bad guy? Will he find true love and not screw it up?
Characters: Clarke Lantham is probably my favorite of Mr. Sawyer’s characters. And if you know how much I’ve enjoyed some of his stories, that says a lot. Each of the characters lives and breaths. I’ve known people just like them. So have you. Some of them you wish you didn’t. Some of them, well, you wish you had a vat of hydrochloric acid. Still it is fair to say, each character in Smoke Rings, even the most supporting, seemed to ring true for me.
Odin’s recommendation: Buy it. Read it. Thank Dan.
Seriously, if you’re a fan of detective fiction, you’re going to like the Clarke Lantham stories. Smoke Rings is a bit different from the other two in the series, in that there really isn’t much speculative about it. That didn’t detract from it in any way for me, and I doubt it will for you either.