Catching Water in a Net

Catching Water in a Net

4.5 11
by J. L. Abramo

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In this award-winning debut, San Francisco PI Jake Diamond is a hero who plays both sides of the Private Eye street. He is a careless dresser with a sloppy lifestyle and he couldn't keep his marriage from falling apart. But he also epitomizes the best of the modern shamus. He has the kinds of friends a man in his profession needs-jailbirds, mob bosses, and a cop who


In this award-winning debut, San Francisco PI Jake Diamond is a hero who plays both sides of the Private Eye street. He is a careless dresser with a sloppy lifestyle and he couldn't keep his marriage from falling apart. But he also epitomizes the best of the modern shamus. He has the kinds of friends a man in his profession needs-jailbirds, mob bosses, and a cop who can surreptitiously run license plate numbers for him.

Jake has been down on his luck lately, barely making enough money to pay the bills and it looks like business might finally be picking up. A woman comes to his office begging him to find her missing husband who has been accused of murder. Jake remembers that his mentor Jimmy Pigeon always says "Whenever I'm asked to locate a missing spouse, the words 'no, but thanks for asking' always come to mind" and almost turns the case down, but then he learns that the murder victim was Jimmy Pigeon.

Determined to discover the identity of Pigeon's killer, Diamond scrambles between Los Angeles and San Francisco following leads that range from weak to delusional. With the help of his trusty and sarcastic assistant, Darlene Roman, compulsive gambler Vinnie "String" Stradivarius, and Italian-American "businessman" Joey Russo, Jake slowly uncovers the motives behind Pigeon's murder.

Jake's adventure has all the components of a great new private eye series-scares, suspense, lots of laughs, a few tears and a big surprise at the end.

Editorial Reviews

William W. Starr
The phone on my desk rang so unexpectedly I nearly spilled the Mylanta onto my only unstained necktie."

Whoa, there. That has to be Velda, the knockout gorgeous secretary calling her private-eye boss Mike Hammer in Mickey Spillane's "I, the Jury," right?

No, it's actually sassy Darlene who's called her boss, San Francisco P.I. Jake Diamond, in J.L. Abramo's first novel.

Now, I know Mike Hammer, and believe me, Jake Diamond is no Mike Hammer. No, Jake is a penniless, antacid-sniffing gumshoe who just happens to read Charles Dickens and loves his 1963 Chevy Impala. So no, he really isn't Mike Hammer.

But Columbia author Abramo's prize-winning novel brings back the spirit of Raymond Chandler, Spillane and countless other tough-guy P.I. authors in a way that's original while paying tribute to its genre predecessors.

You've got to love the names here, jailbirds, Mob bosses, hit men and the like. Sonny the Chin. Bobo Bigelow. Dogtail. Vinnie Stradivarius, called Vinnie Strings (though most of the tough guys in these pages don't have a clue why).

Diamond springs into action on the second page when a new client shows up, Evelyn Harding, who needs a P.I. to find her missing husband. Same scene you've read dozens of times before in these sorts of books. But here's the twist: She's not a sexy bombshell. But let Jake tell it in his own words:

"Her voice could have been broken glass. I felt a twinge in one of my molars. I slowly looked up from the folder, and the woman standing there could hardly be described in words. But I gave it a stab. She looked like a traced picture of herself.

"She was as plain as a cake doughnut."

But Evelyn Harding has some surprising news for Jake. Her missing husband is the prime suspect in the killing of Jake's best friend, a Los Angeles shamus named Jimmy Pigeon (didn't I tell you you'd love these names?), a murder that shakes Jake to his core and sends him winging off into the novel's twisting plot.

Armed with a copy of Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities a most appropriate book, only the two cities in this context are San Fran and L.A., not London and Paris; Jake ravages the City of Angels in search of the gunman, or gunwoman, and turning up a few secrets along the way. And, as if to point up the differences between this P.I. and those in some other novels, Jake is not above dropping names like Godard, Copernicus and the Boxer Rebellion, Those words never dropped from Mike Hammer's lips.

Readers who grew up with the sex and violence of Spillane will find this fun, well-written new incarnation to be a little gentler. There are some pretty sexy dames here and there, but Jake isn't getting lucky with them. In fact, can you imagine Mike Hammer talking with anyone about granddaughters?

Oh well, just know this isn't your grandmother's P.I. novel and enjoy. And hope that that Abramo (a Brooklyn native who now calls Columbia home is at work on a sequel to Catching Water in a Net, which won the St. Martin's Press/PWA Award for Best First Private Eye Novel.
The State

Library Journal
San Franciscan narrator Jake Diamond easily fits the traditional hard-boiled, whiskey-in-a-drawer, office-on-a-shoestring private eye mold. And the cryptic, hammered-out prose accentuates his dilemma: find the man who allegedly killed Jake's former mentor in Los Angeles. Jake finds his man but too late. Now he extends his search to the guy who wanted to purchase the dead pair's website business. The obligatory sultry ex-wife, characters with names like Willie Dogtail and Vinnie Stradivarius, and picturesque thugs complicate the plot and add to the atmosphere. Winner of the St. Martin's 2000 award for best first private eye novel. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The winner of the St. Martin's/PWA best private eye debut for 2000 is a deft reworking of every p.i. cliche, from the honorable/usually broke/flummoxed-by-babes shamus to his lippy secretary to a caseload that involves his ex-wife, his ex-girlfriend, his late mentor, several powerful business investors and even more gangsters, plus a worthy cop adversary. San Francisco shamus Jake Diamond, alternately sipping bourbon and Mylanta, wants to know why his old buddy Jimmy Pigeon, co-owner of winds up dead, with his partner Harry Harding soon to follow. The truth lies (sic) somewhere between what Evelyn Harding hints at, Grace Shipley knows, the Carlucci mob has been threatening Al Pazzo (who'd been putting the arm on Harding) about, and the offer a Richman Associates underling made to buy out, then reneged on. Vegas, L.A., and the Grand Caymans will all come in to play before Diamond, with atypical cunning, engineers a class-A double-cross, leaving several personal allies a good deal wealthier and the Witness Protection Program one witness short. Fast-paced, convoluted, and comfortably familiar-all of which ought to please pulp diehards and fans who can never get enough roughage.

Product Details

Down & Out Books
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

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Catching Water in a Net 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Catching Water In A Net by J.L. Abramo deservedly won the St. Martin's Press/Private Eye Writers of America Award for Best First Private Eye Novel. Abramo echoed themes from some of the greatest crime writers of the past and present, while adding a great deal of his own. Part of what Abramo achieved was to combine the best elements of Dashiell Hammett and Andrew Vachss, possibly the premier writers ever to work in this field. The hard-boiled aspects, the friendly adversary relationship between Jake and the police, the loyal female sidekick and the rotten lowdown dames are all reminiscent of The Maltese Falcon. The friends and friendly acquaintances growing together into a strong extended family, non-biological but no weaker for that, has always been the best thing in Andrew Vachss for me. And Abramo is way funnier than Kinky Friedman. What you have here is a warm-hearted book about a man growing up a bit late while trying to solve the murder of his mentor and avoiding a wide array of perils from no-goodniks and police alike, all handled with aplomb and wit by Abramo. Abramo also slips in a Charles Dickens subtext, pretty brainy stuff for the genre. St. Martin's Press promises a series. I, for one, can't wait.
Like_Bookends More than 1 year ago
Friends of Jake Diamond, hold onto your tablets because here comes the digital version of your favorite detective. Sure we know all about the nefarious use of digital realms, Jake solved that mystery for us in Catching Water in a Net. Now we can read all about it again using our portable digital readers from a host of providers. Jake goes multi-channel, who would have ever guessed that scenario. Whether you're back again for the foodie aspects, or the deepening plot lines that require a trilogy of capers to solve, having Jake along with you at beach or on your commute while using your favorite tablet, smart phone, netbook or even the stationary MAC or PC will beat any other summer book read you can find. Forgeddaboutit, if you aren't hip enough to be digital, if you snooze you lose in Jake Diamond's world.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Jake Diamond owns Diamond Investigations, a San Francisco based private investigative firm. In fact, Jake works as the company¿s only investigator with an office assistant keeping the case records (as few as they are) and his tie clean. Based on the recommendation of a friend who once hired Jake, Evelyn Harding wants to retain the sleuth to look for her missing husband Harry, vanished for four days.

Not interested beyond making a quick buck, his interest soon peaks when he learns that Harry was a partner of Jimmy Pigeon, Jake¿s mentor and teacher in the private investigative business. Jake learns that LAPD believes Harry Killed Jimmy with the motive being an argument over whether to sell their million dollar net-based business. Because of the identity of the victim, Jake drives to LA allegedly to find Harry, but in reality to insure Jimmy's killer receives justice.

With this debut novel, JL Abramo became the winner of the St. Martin¿s Press PWA Award for Best First Private Eye Novel. Sub-genre fans, who read CATCHING WATER IN A NET, will agree with that assessment as the engaging story line is amusing yet somewhat coarse mostly due to the antics of the lead protagonist. Jake is a wonderful lead character who the audience will find enticing and demand more of his adventures. Using the homicide of his revered guru as the impetus for Jake¿s involvement cleverly allows readers to learn more about the hero while the plot flows forward. This novel lives up to the award it already won.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book, I was really impressed with how this guy can capture and pull you into this story. Really like his writing style. I cannot believe more people have not read this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read - bring more like it
Anonymous 11 months ago
But the main ones were likable so I read on.
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