I really like Jeff Shelby’s Noah Braddock mystery series, and am delighted that he’s revived it after a brief hiatus. Deep Water is the second book in the new “season,” so to speak, and I think it’s my favorite to date.
I would have never thought I’d warm up to a series about a surfer detective, but author Shelby makes it work with Noah Braddock. Noah went into a tailspin a while back, after a personal loss. He avenged the loss, and then went back to work because he couldn’t think of anything else to do. In the previous book he found a new girlfriend, and step by step he’s coming back to life.
In Deep Water, he gets an offer from San Diego State University to investigate a student death. A young woman, Emma Kershaw, died as a result of falling down some stairs at a fraternity party. It looks like a clear-cut accident, with the only culpability being Emma’s own for being extremely drunk. But the university wants to be sure they won’t be surprised by any unguessed liability. Noah is to ask questions and find out about Emma and her world.
It’s quite a world. It turns out Emma was almost universally disliked. As an officer in her sorority, she was bullying and tyrannical. Her romantic relationships were volatile. Lots of people wished her harm, but did anyone hate her enough to push her down those stairs?
This book was a nice change in literature for me. There was precious little violence; just systematic questioning and analytical thought (not really what you’d expect from a surfer, but preconceptions exist to be punctured). Noah is a sympathetic person, and his final resolution of the mystery was an empathetic one that made me want to stand up and cheer.
Also, the book contained a plot element that mirrored (at least for me) a similar element in the overarching plot line of several of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books. I didn’t like the way Parker handled it (one of the main reasons I stopped reading him), but I loved the way Jeff Shelby dealt with it here.
So Deep Water gets my unreserved endorsement. Minor cautions for language and adult themes.