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Formats
Ebook Details
  • 04/2020
  • B086T371T7
  • 182 pages
  • $.99
The Hidden Hand of Death (The Jack Ryder Mysteries Book 1)
It is early in 1942. The war with Germany has just begun. Jack Ryder, who calls himself a fixer rather than a detective, wanders the darkest nights to his office in a back booth at an all-night diner. Ryder is famous for killing members of the mob who have crossed their bosses by hurting innocent people. Ryder also helps ordinary people in trouble. An enemy—a homicide detective—comes to hire Ryder to find the detective’s missing sister. Ryder also gets involved in going up against some Nazis in New York and saving a woman on the run from gangsters.
Reviews
Epstein’s gritty period detective novel is intricately and elegantly plotted, but it’s the vivid characterizations that bring the story to life. Set in New York in 1942, the story revolves around a “fixer” named Jack Ryder. His job description is killing bad people, and his moral code dictates that he will only kill those who harm innocents. He’s dedicated his life to helping people, often for free. While dealing with a dangerous former client, Ryder has to help a police detective locate his sister, assist the FBI with rooting out Nazi sympathizers, and unravel the mystery surrounding the death of his wife.

Epstein effortlessly balances all of these plot lines, keeping the reader off balance by bringing some to a surprising early close. His prose is spare and taut, gripping the reader and creating an exciting pace. His sense of setting (“The Greenwich Village street was as dark as Europe’s future”) and character keep the book fresh. Epstein gives Ryder and the reader a chance to breathe in the scenes set in Ryder’s “office,” an all-night diner. His “secretary,” wise waitress Gertie, gets her own extensive arc. However, self-consciously diverse characters, such as a woman who escapes Nazi Germany and an African American man pondering entering military service on behalf of a country full of racists, feel tacked on.

Ryder himself remains the main draw, a tragic but noble character. Unlike the typical hard-boiled detective, Ryder is not a heavy drinker or a womanizer. He’s still haunted by his past and the death of his wife, and his vulnerability and complexity render him deeply compelling. His imperative is to help others, but he’s incapable of helping himself, which makes his story heartbreaking. Period details such as air-raid blackouts, automats, and the German American Bund provide a distinctive, authentic flavor to this solid historical thriller with a conscience.

Takeaway: Fans of gritty period detective stories will love this WWII-era novel's tight plotting, vivid characterization, and hero with a strong moral code.

Great for fans of Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder series.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: -
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: C

Formats
Ebook Details
  • 04/2020
  • B086T371T7
  • 182 pages
  • $.99

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