I’ve liked most of the Jeff Shelby novels I’ve read. He seems to be proliferating series, and they span several sub-genres, from humorous cozy all the way to hard-boiled. So I figured I’d check out the first book of his Capitol Cases series, starring Washington DC-are private eye, Mack Mercy.
This series is a spin-off of a series starring “Rainy” Day, who was Mack’s office assistant, but has now moved out on her own. At the beginning of Dead on Arrival, Mack is searching halfheartedly for a replacement for her. He’s having trouble finding anyone competent, and he hates office work in general. A middle-aged bachelor, he’s not the most organized guy in the world.
So when Glen Pulaski, an insurance agent and passionate home gardener, calls him about following his wife to see if she’s cheating, Mack is happy to jump on that case instead. Except that when he goes to see Glen at his home, he finds him dead of carbon monoxide poisoning, an apparent suicide. But Mack is suspicious. He doesn’t have any strong evidence, but he has a sense that something’s off. Might Glen’s wife have killed him? Or her lover? Or someone with more obscure motives?
In the course of the case Mack finds a new assistant, a near-clone of the departed Rainy, and he gradually starts trusting her to help him with actual investigations, beyond office work.
Dead on Arrival was a pleasant mystery in the “cozy” tradition. I found it amusing, but I also found Mack a little dull as a character – laid back, non-motivated people don’t generally make good fictional heroes. I also figured out the culprit early on – though I didn’t guess the motive.
Dead on Arrival was okay. Cozy fans may enjoy it very much. It looks like some romance may develop between Mack and his new assistant, and I might even read another book to see where that’s going. But it’s not at the top of my reading list.