Friday, March 8, 2019

Noteworthy Reads: THE HONKY TONK BIG HOSS BOOGIE by Robert J. Randisi

This exciting PI mystery from veteran Randisi is the first to feature Auggie Velez, a Nashville sessions musician who is also a licensed private investigator. Auggie is immediately engaging as a protagonist. He is fairly well established on the Nashville music scene as a reliable sessions man, preferring that work to going on the road. But the real dream he continues to chase is one day writing and performing his own music. The PI work, which he began to augment his sometimes sporadic income, is something he has more recently ventured into and is therefore less seasoned at; but his basic street smarts, combined with past military training, a keen sense of the Music City scene, and the mentorship of the aging private eye who helped him get his ticket, are all helping to hone his skills.
And Auggie is soon needing to call on all of this and more after he accepts a job that appears to be a simple, though somewhat mysterious package delivery for a big time music producer. When the recipient of said package, a common briefcase whose contents were never revealed to Auggie, turns up murdered, Auggie becomes a very prominent “person of interest”. As the police investigation becomes stalled as far as any other leads and the music executive who originally hired Auggie remains reluctant about admitting his role, Auggie is forced to start digging deeper into the whole mess if for no other reason than to prove his innocence.
What ensues amounts to a fascinating tour of Nashville and its many colorful places and characters. As usual in a Randisi novel, snappy dialogue carries much of the load. But there also is real depth to the characterizations of many of the individuals encountered, including Auggie himself. Perhaps some of the best work Bob has done in this regard. There is a particularly poignant scene about mid way through the novel where, after some burglars have broken ito Auggie's apartment and trashed his personal, deeply treasured collection of old guitars – after the police have left and he is all alone starting to clean up the mess – Auggie breaks down and weeps over the loss that only he can understand the full impact of. Very strong and brave, I thought, for Bob to bare that much of his protagonist's soul.
When finally revealed, the secret of what was contained in the briefcase is a doozy and the overall conclusion to the case, when reached, is satisfying. The whole thing is made even more realistic by the fact that, due to the deaths of some players along the way, not every minute detail can be fully explained. Nevertheless, enough is established to clear Auggie and the key bad guys are sufficiently punished. Even more good news is that – as announced by the publisher at the close of this book – Auggie will soon be showing up again in a new case titled THE LAST SWEET SONG OF HAMMER DYLAN.
I'm definitely looking forward to that and, in the meantime, strongly recommend THE HONKY TONK BIG HOSS BOOGIE. Don't miss it!

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