If you love crime novels set along the coast of Southern California, you’ll love South on Pacific Coast Highway. Think Chandler and Hammett and the great noir films from the thirties and forties. Sultry dames and unsolved murders, bad cops and even badder criminals. A crisp but measured pace, with the desert wind for a backdrop…
Or perhaps you’d like to read about Americans incarcerated in Mexican prisons during the sixties. My fact based, crime fiction novel, The Trip Into Milky Way, captures unforgettably those wild years, from the early days, when we were just kids growing up and were still young and foolish enough to believe there was magic in this world and the great counterculture adventure waited ahead of us…
Self described as a crime “throwback” novel, you can easily grab comparisons to Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. From the way Michael Devlin draws his conclusions, his interactions with the other characters, and his internal monologues, you grab that smokey, gritty world of the under-paid and under-appreciated PI almost immediately. That in itself is worth the price of admission here. It pays respectful homage to crime novels of the past.
The plot in itself starts out fairly simple. Michael Devlin’s friend is thrown in jail for murdering his wife, and he is out to clear his name. What happens is a couple more murders, a romance between Devlin and a redheaded bombshell, and international arms dealers that stretches from Mexico to Russia.
How Gary connects point A to point B with all the twists and turns in between is something to read. Usually first or even second time authors have trouble linking things together, and you have to make a leap of faith in order to accept the conclusion. That doesn’t happen with this book. Every move that is made is calculated, and makes logical sense. By the time the finale happens you don’t have to wonder how Michael got there, it was well mapped out.
This is not to say that it’s not going to throw you along the way. Each character has their own motives, their voice, and they are all interconnected in some way. You’ll be second guessing yourself throughout the entire experience.
The characters are all brought out well. Even the villains are a little likeable at times. Gary is able to create separation and distinction to each character so you are never confused as to who is in what scene.
The romantic tension is done incredibly well. There is no gratuitous sex, but you know that the sex is wild, loud and passionate without the book turning into erotica. You feel for Michael as we wrestles with whether or not he should get involved, and you feel the consequences right along with him and his decisions.
The Bottom Line: Quick wit, smart plotting, and prose that reflects his influences in crime, South on Pacific Coast Highway is one book that you’ll not want to put down. When the final pages are turned, you’ll want to re-visit Michael in another book and follow him to find out if he finds peace, if he finds true love, and if he can come to terms with life around him.
~ Joe Hempel: Top of the Heap Reviews.