My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Duke Dempsey, formerly a Charleston PD detective, is out on his own as a private investigator, and although business is looking good, he’s still adjusting to his inglorious ouster from public service and the hit he took to his self-esteem and reputation. He’s had success with some big cases but nothing as big as his latest, finding a missing relic for none other than the Pope! Tied up with his investigation is the double homicide his former partner, Johnny Stampkin, is dealing with down on the docks of the Charleston port. A local priest, Father Lorenzo, a favorite in the Holy City as Charleston is known, has been vicious stabbed, and his companion, an off-duty Charleston cop, has had his throat slashed. Father Lorenzo was supposed to have been the safeguard of the Church’s relic, and no one knows where it is. As Duke and Johnny’s cases entwine and the bodies continue to pile up, they desperately pool their resources to go after the killer and find the precious artifact.
The Holy City Murders is the debut novel in the Duke Dempsey Mystery series by author Ron Plante, Jr. I found the main characters – Duke, Johnny, Margo, and Mary – likable and engaging, and the time period of the events appealing. The city of Charleston, South Carolina, made for an appealing setting with its humid, laid-back charm, recognizable landmarks, and unique opportunities because of its diversity for this and future books in the series. I thought the story was very good with the simultaneous police and private investigations of the two former partners. However, I knew who the secret spy was pretty quickly, so the mystery was really how this person would be revealed and how the protagonists would figure things out.There were a couple of drawbacks for me in the story, though. First, the dialogue seemed more suited to the streets of New York, Chicago, Boston, or Philly. I choose to believe this was done to emphasize the patter seen in traditional detective noir. But Duke is a southern boy, a Charlestonian native, he even brings this up a couple of times, and I don’t see it in the language. Having said this, I still enjoyed the patois.
The other beef I have, and I see that previous reviewers noted it as well, was the plethora of grammatical issues in the version of the story being read. I read an Advance Readers Copy I received from Book Sirens, and there were numerous problems of this nature. However, a quick look at the finished version currently available for purchase or download shows that many of these issues have been found and corrected. Based on that examination, I’m adding an additional star to my original rating.With the look and feel of a noir detective story, there is so much to enjoy in Duke Dempsey and The Holy City Murders. The story doesn’t end here, and I look forward to reading more about Duke and his crowd as the series continues. I recommend this book to readers that enjoy a grittier mystery (than a cozy), noir detective stories, historical mysteries, or even a mystery that features Civil War elements.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Readers Copy from Book Sirens.
View all my reviews