I had a fair amount of time to read over my long weekend out of town, and in that time I polished off the three books (to date) of John D. Patten’s Titus series of mystery/thrillers. I’m having a hard time figuring out what to say about them. They’re strange. But fun.
Titus (he never tells us his last name) is a former Boston police detective who did some time in prison, though he was exonerated and released. Recently he went to Miami, with the sole intention of killing a man. That man, he believes, killed the only woman he ever loved.
But his first night in town, his car was stopped on a bridge by a beautiful policewoman. For some reason, after that encounter, he lost some of his fire. He’s delaying killing his target, instead renting a room and working in a bar, waiting for… something.
One night, a very rich woman approaches him in the bar’s parking lot. Titus was referred to her, she says, by a friend. Her daughter has disappeared. The girl has had some trouble with drugs, but was straightening her life out. Can Titus look for her?
Titus has an intuition that something’s hinky about the woman’s story, but he takes the case, having nothing better to do. He enters a world of Miami nightclubs, drugs, excess, human trafficking, lies and betrayal. That’s the premise of the first book, Miami Burn.
In the second book, Miami Chill, Titus takes a bodyguard job which leads him to deal, again, with human traffickers. He also discovers some secrets about his personal and family history.
The third book, Miami Storm, starts with Titus in a hospital bed, recovering from a gunshot wound he can’t remember sustaining. A surprising friend rescues him (he was being held by people who wanted him to remember valuable information), helps him regain his physical strength, and turns him loose to run down some international criminals and to discover shocking truths about his own past.
What can I say about the Titus books? Back when I was young, before Robert B. Parker raised Spenser’s (another one-name detective from Boston) consciousness, there used to be a lot of mysteries aimed at the male market. Prominent representatives were Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer and Richard S. Prather’s Shell Scott. Aside from action and mystery, these books featured a whole lot of sex. Improbably gorgeous women constantly threw themselves at these heroes, and the heroes took ample advantage of their opportunities.
Titus is kind of like that – women are always jumping on him, sometimes going to the trouble of disrobing before propositioning him. Titus is a little more reluctant than the old school private eyes – he generally tries to resist, especially when (as is often the case) the women are much younger than he. But he gives in a lot, too, especially when he’s had too much to drink. The sex isn’t explicit, but there’s a lot of it.
On the other hand, there’s the character of “The Reverend.” Like Spenser, Titus has a big, muscled, dangerous black friend. But this friend is a preacher, a reformed thug who runs an inner city mission and often preaches to Titus. But he’s also a good man to have at your back in a fight. And he gradually influences Titus’s thinking.
So what we’ve got here is kind of a Crossway Books story by way of Mickey Spillane. An odd concoction.
But I have to admit – I had more fun with these books than I’ve had with many books in a long time.
So I recommend them conditionally – if you can handle the sexual situations, the violence, and the profanity, there’s a lot of entertainment to be had here. And even a little inspiration. The writing isn’t bad either.