Verdict: SANTA FE MOJO is an enjoyable and engaging read, thanks to its main character, worn-out gumshoe Vincent Malone, and its nostalgic 1980s murder mystery feel.
Worn-out gumshoe Vincent Malone is drawn into a murder investigation at the new bed and breakfast where he’s now employed–driving guests to and from the airport. Author Ted Clifton takes readers along for the ride, rooting for Malone, a 60-something, down-to-his-third-strike former attorney, private investigator cum chauffeur, who comes across a mixed bag of enough citizens and suspects to cast an episode of the late 1980s-into 1990s tv show, “Murder She Wrote.”
Once an up-and-coming attorney in Dallas married to his high school sweetheart, Malone’s hard drinking led him to a series of unfortunate events, most notably a boozy broker who got him in on an illegal investment gone bad, resulting in a revoked license and a divorce. Ironically, the latest murder involves another investment gone bad, involving sports agent Mark Hamilton whose famous star clients’ investment money has vanished, along with the financial genius recommended by his friend and lawyer. The clients (and soon-to-be suspects) gather to hear the unwelcome news at Malone’s place of employment, the new B&B located just down the road from Hamilton’s house in Santa Fe.
Clifton is at his best when he relates one-on-one interactions between his characters, who often have a lot to say. This character development, when it works, is extremely effective. Trouble is, there are way too many characters to track in this story, which is not really a page-turner, despite the trail of bodies and back stories, but more like a worthwhile romp that observes how the protagonist gets his groove back. Too many suspects’ and law officials’ names bandied about does tend to muddy the waters, inviting the inevitable, “now who was that, again?”
The fact that the author has spent a lot of time in the American Southwest comes through engagingly in his writing. Readers experience the vibe and tourist-worthy diversity of Santa Fe, along with the clannishness of its officials and “crazy quilt of law enforcement,” the latter noted by Malone’s new friend, Nancy McAllen, who owns the local “cop hangout” bar. This construct should come off as contrived, but it doesn’t, as their courtship has a natural pace and rhythm, drawing the reader in. Clifton’s choice of making Malone’s age over 60, instead of the usual 30-something, is quite revitalizing.
SANTA FE MOJO is an enjoyable and engaging read, thanks to its main character, worn-out gumshoe Vincent Malone, and its nostalgic 1980s murder mystery feel.
~MG Milbrodt for IndieReader