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Posted July 23, 2012
Posted January 17, 2012
I first read Northcoast Shakedown back in 2005, when it was first released in print by a small press. It's a fast-paced, engaging story with a quirky main character who's so real, it's hard to believe he's fictional. Upon the re-read, my original opinion stands: P.I. Nick Kepler's a piece of work (in a good way!) and never fails to entertain. Kepler is a P.I. with the perfect, cushy gig of tracking down workers' comp fraud and the occasional cheating spouse. When the book opens, he's investigating just that, plus a questionnable life insurance claim that's more a matter of saving an underwriter's job than saving the company money. But the more he digs in, the more questionable the life insurance claim appears, and not for the reasons the company thinks. Before Nick knows it, he's in over his head in a world of swingers' clubs, political cover-ups, and murder, and finds himself next on a killer's hit list. Kepler himself never fails to engage, as a guy who just wants to get his job done and enjoy a beer and a baseball game afterward, with the occasional hot babe thrown in. His quirky dislike of SUVs and ability to be distracted by an attractive female are among the little details that make him relatable and fun. As good of a read as this book is, it's not perfect, but the criticisms are small. One is that there are so many minor/extra characters in this book, it's hard to keep track of them. I'm not talking about the long list of suspects and persons of interest - the book does very well there. But Kepler is a former cop, and has associates in several different departments in addition to other government types and colleages/customers at the insurance company - enough that they eventually run together in this reader's mind. There's also the occasional reference to technology that was current when the book was written, but is very dated now (Windows 2000? Firewire?). In his author's note, Winter mentions that the book was written in 2002, and with this in mind, the old technology makes sense, but it does momentarily take the reader out of the story. Still, these things are minor, and Northcoast Shakedown was as enjoyable a read now as it was when initially published. I'm looking forward to re-reading the next Kepler installment!
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