Tag Archives: Noah Braddock

‘Deep Water,’ by Jeff Shelby

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.

‘Close Out,’ by Jeff Shelby

Tonight’s review will be even shorter than last night’s. I’ve got a big translation project (at last), and deadlines loom. Posting may be sparse for the rest of the week. We’ll see how it goes.

Fortunately, this is another Noah Braddock book, Jeff Shelby’s series about a lonely surfer/private eye in San Diego. When Close Out begins, Noah and his giant friend Carter have been reduced to doing bouncer work at a local night club. Business has been slack. But one night a woman lawyer, Cynthia Guzman, comes in to talk to Noah. She has clients she’d like him to meet. But they can’t just get together. They need to meet in a secret place.

Cautiously, Noah agrees. He is introduced to two illegal immigrants, a middle-aged man and woman. They’ve been paying a mysterious “benefactor” who promised to clear up their legal problems and get them legalized. But he’s long on promises – and demands for payments – and short on results. They now realize they’ve been cheated. Can Noah help them recover their money?

It doesn’t look like a high-paying job, but Noah is interested. He agrees to look into it on a preliminary basis. The trail will lead to unexpected quarters, and to risk for himself and his clients.

Like the other books in the series, Close Out is a fairly low key, enjoyable read. The author is on his immigration crusade again – again there are no non-admirable “undocumented immigrants” in sight – but the politics aren’t too heavy-handed, and Noah and Carter are fun to hang out with.

Recommended with minor cautions for language.

‘Wipe Out,’ by Jeff Shelby

This will be a short review, but I’m giving you two posts today, and the other one is awesome.

I’m continuing reading Jeff Shelby’s Noah Braddock mystery series. This one is Wipe Out (cue background music – you’ll understand if you’re old enough). Noah, you’ll recall, is a California surfer/private eye, who’s spent many years overcoming his exceedingly dysfunctional upbringing to become a responsible and decent man. He’s still recovering from a personal tragedy that made him a fugitive for a while.

Mitch Henderson was the proprietor of a beach motel in San Diego, and served as a badly needed father figure for Noah in his youth. So when Mitch dies suspiciously, another friend, Anne Sullivan, who worked at the motel, asks Noah to investigate. Curiosity becomes something like desperation when Anne – instead of Mitch’s widow – is left the motel in Mitch’s will, and she becomes the target of threats and malicious vandalism.

This story looked at first like kind of a standard “surprised and threatened heir” story, a staple in the genre. But it worked out in surprising ways, and was resolved in a pretty satisfying manner.

I enjoyed Wipe Out, and recommend it, with mild cautions for language.

‘Impact Zone,’ by Jeff Shelby

Having finished Jeff Shelby’s “Thread” books, I moved on to his Noah Braddock series, which I’ve also enjoyed. Noah Braddock is an implausible private eye – a surfer who investigates in his spare time. But author Shelby does some interesting character development with him. Noah is the product of an especially dysfunctional background, fumbling his way to maturity. A few books ago he suffered a personal tragedy and had to flee his California home for a while. As Impact Zone begins, he’s back in San Diego, trying to rebuild his life.

A girl he once dated asks him to travel up to rural northeast San Diego County to talk to her father, who is a big avocado farmer. He’s installed closed circuit TV in various locations in his orchards, and one of the cameras took a picture that bothers him. It’s a young blonde girl who’s running, and looking scared. Can Noah see if he can find out who she is, and if she’s all right?

Noah feels intensely out of his element on a big farm, far from the ocean. But he hasn’t gotten far in his investigation when one of the farm workers disappears. There’s a ransom demand. Noah and his friend Carter find themselves facing a conspiracy involving surprising people, some of whom are playing for keeps.

The subject of illegal immigration is prominent in Impact Zone. Author Shelby obviously has strong opinions on the issue, because another book in the series, which I’m reading now, also deals with it. His is a pretty rose-colored view, in my opinion. In his world, there are no criminal “undocumented immigrants.” No drug cartel members, no gangsters, no human traffickers. Only hard-working, incredibly decent people, an example to us all. I think it hurts his storytelling a little, because we know from the beginning that certain possible scenarios just aren’t going to happen. If you have strong feelings about immigration, you may have trouble with these books.

The editing falls down occasionally, and at one point a firearm starts as a rifle and then somehow transforms into a shotgun.

But I like Noah Braddock, and I enjoyed the book anyway. Mild cautions for language.

‘Locked In,’ by Jeff Shelby

Locked In

Author Jeff Shelby has several mystery series going, but my favorite is his Noah Braddock series, featuring a surfer/private detective in San Diego. Noah defies all your (or at least my) presuppositions about surfers, being a thoughtful and highly ethical character.

A couple books ago, Noah killed the man who murdered his girlfriend, who was a San Diego cop. The last novel found him living incognito in Florida, surfing unfamiliar waves. But now his ethics have caught up with him, and the beginning of Locked In finds him heading back to San Diego with his friend Carter. He has decided he can’t live as a fugitive. He needs to face up to this.

He contacts his girlfriend’s old partner, who puts in a word with the District Attorney’s office. The DA, an imperious woman, offers him a deal – an “assault” is rumored to have happened at the University of San Diego, during a party involving the baseball team. He is to find out what he can about it. She will tell him nothing more. If he satisfies her with his answers, she’ll see that the charges against him are dropped (he killed a cop killer, after all). He agrees, with some discomfort, and steps into a world of lies, cover-ups, and self-serving deception, all the while mourning his lost love.

Noah Braddock is an excellent, sympathetic continuing character, and I enjoyed Locked In very much. Cautions for language and adult subject matter.

Jeff Shelby’s Noah Braddock novels

I reviewed Jeff Shelby’s Killer Swell a while back, and reported my surprise at finding such quality in a novel about a surfer detective, something that just struck my prejudices as inevitably lightweight.

Recently I got the opportunity to pick up Drift Away free or very cheap (I forget which) for Kindle, and I read that. It turned out to be a minor mistake. The problem is that Drift Away is the fourth novel in the series, and a very important character had died in the third novel. So that was spoiled for me.

Nevertheless, I went back and bought two and three, Wicked Break and Liquid Smoke.

And my conclusion is that Shelby is a very good author indeed, producing a substantial series here. Noah Braddock, the hero, is a tough guy with serious life issues (his mother is an alcoholic and his felon father abandoned them). But he works hard to live with integrity and be useful through his detective work (which, it must be admitted, he only does when he feels like it). He’s capable of great empathy and great courage. There’s a mix of nobility and cynicism in his character that’s worthy of classic hard-boiled. His relationship with his dangerous giant friend, Carter, is great buddy stuff.

The direction Shelby chose to take in the third Noah Braddock novel raised it, in my opinion, to the level of tragedy, and Drift Away, which entirely alters the setting, follows that up very effectively.

I found a few flaws; homonym errors and a tendency to fall back on stock (minor) characters and detective story tropes. But all in all I was most impressed, and sometimes genuinely moved.

As usual, cautions for language, violence, and adult situations.